Friday, July 6, 2012


Vidkun Quisling
Mitt Romney may not really laugh but Gary Wills is really brilliant. Why has Wills never been nominated for elective office? And is he the potential number #2 man, the dark horse that Romney has been looking for? Perhaps you are smiling in the confused nervous way that people do when they are being confronted with nonsense. In his short piece in the June 21st New York Review of Books, “Why Is This Man Laughing?” Wills attempts to analyze Romney’s “non-laugh laugh,” as either a defense, an attempt to fit in, an offense, “comic rictus as a non-sequitur,” or as subterfuge. In his attempt to understand the laughter Wills invokes the author of The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, a seemingly logical step, that is probably sui generis in the annals of Romney scholarship. Even followers of string theory which gives eleven possible dimensions in which one could exist will find it hard to locate Kundera and Romney in the same universe. Wills’ reference point is actually not the novel itself but an essay entitled “The Comical Absence of the Comical (Dostoevsky, The Idiot).” Wills then attempts to account for Romney’s symptoms with the “etiology and taxonomy of senseless laughter…in examples of humorless humor in the defensive-aggressive response of Prince Mishkin to other people’s senseless laughter.” But it’s not Kundera’s analysis of Mishkin that provides the most stirring insight in Wills’ search for gold. It’s from an aside of Kundera’s about “a man standing uncomfortably in a crowd.” “I was seeing a person laugh who had no sense of the comical and was laughing only to keep from standing out from the crowd, like a spy who puts on the uniform of a foreign army to avoid recognition,” Wills quotes Kundera as saying. Vidkun Quisling was a Norwegian politico who seemed to be defending his own country, but was really a Nazi collaborator.  The London Times made a noun out of his behavior. Wills description of Romney’s uneasy laughter is that of the quisling who is trying to appear like one of his people, but whose allegiances lie elsewhere. The question is where?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.