Speculations on a hard day’s night

Not only is all the world a stage, said Nikolai Evreinov, but the men and women around should be encouraged to act. But, as Brecht taught, there should remain a distance between the actor and his part. There is a specially assumed persona behind more than one lively Russian blog at LiveJournal. In a postmodern spirit, one can rarely tell the distance between the mask and its wearer; one cannot be sure a claim is in earnest or in jest. That’s why strong — wild — statements don’t meet a storm of condemnation; it’s good manners to ascribe them strictly to the blogging persona. “There is a share of jest in every jest,” a new Russian saying goes.

Not so in the English-based segment of the blogosphere. The keeper of a top, pop blog cannot afford to say, “I wouldn’t mind if the whole bloody country X went down the drain tomorrow; I’d not mind shooting ’em all mysef — where can I by an M16?” unless X = France, of course, or Israel. The very next hour the Committee on Academic Ethics at Centerville State University would be up in arms against poor Professor Y.

There is nothing uniquely postmodern in the mask-face dichotomy; it’s the basis of skaz, such as Leskov’s The Left-Hander. My own idea of a perfect postmodern text is a play with many characters, their words (and possibly remarks) printed as continuous text, their names omitted.

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