Did you know that “Moby Dick” –allegedly “one of the funniest books ever written” — contains a Fart Joke?

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Let me be upfront about this.
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Let me –in fact– make no bones about it.
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This is NOT a Fart Blog. Though Fart Jokes are not per se banned from this blog, they are per se generally NOT countenanced.
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As Blog Director, let me –as the saying goes– say this about that. (Not to belabor the point.) I see it as my place to print All the Jokes That Are Fit To Print –no more, no less. If that should include a certain number of Fart Jokes (i.e. specifically, and technically, Jokes Of The Genus Fart), all I can say, (all I WILL say) is –SO BE IT.
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Let’s face it, The Fart Joke, for all its Chaucerian and/or Breughelian ribaldry –indeed, for its very potential for cat-among-the-pigeons Social Anarchy– is, in and of itself, per se, a limited genre.
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Truth be told, there is not that much that can be –if I may use the term– squeezed out of a Fart Joke.
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Put another way, one can only go SO FAR with a Fart Joke. (As the saying goes, THAT and fifty cents will get you on the subway –albeit with possibly more elbow room; more “clearance”; more “space” around you. But that is another subject. For another day.)
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[Here let me insert one other piece of Fartobilia –do not, dear reader, bother to look it up; you will not find it in the dictionary; rather, take a Wild Stab at what “Fartobilia” might mean….
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To the Man on the Street, so to speak.
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Indeed (or rather) To the Man on the Top of the Clapham Omnibus.
(Speaking of subways, which we, or rather I, was/were speaking of, not more than a few sentences ago.)
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Not to put too fine a point upon it, my one item of Fartobilia that I wanted to squeeze in here –because I couldn’t see a way to squeeze it in anywhere else– is: there is an Icelandic proverb about Farts & Farting which –for my money– SAYS IT ALL.
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Or, MOST OF IT.
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It goes: “Every man likes the smell of his own farts.”
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I give it to you exactly as it was given to me, no more no less. My including it here is in no way to imply an endorsement of these sentiments, neither Authorially, nor indeed Blog Directorially.
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On this matter, –ENOUGH said.
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Like most young boys, I –so to speak– embraced the Fart Joke.
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I admit it.
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But –I hasten– in my case this embrace was…relatively brief.
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My ebullient brother Neill –older by some 5 years; and there was in my eyes nobody funnier than he– would cup his hand under his arm and pump it, thereby eliciting a series of resonant airy noises that sounded very much like…loud farts.
I must have been, at the time, at the very peak of my fart-joke susceptibility, because I remember falling-down laughing and struggling to breath, to implore him –between hoots and peals of laughter– to stop.
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Neill –no doubt judging that a certain Window of Hilarity was still open to him before my laughter finally turned to inner bodily injury–would continue for a little while longer. And he would come a little closer, for added effect.
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Perhaps it was this very Fraternal Intensification and Over-Exposure, at that tender age, that would in time innure me to the Power of The Fart Joke. Unlike others –even some who have apparently not progressed much beyond TO THIS VERY DAY– I was not particularly drawn to…Flatus Humor.
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I could take FJs or leave them. Occasionally one would encounter a good Fart Joke, and one would laugh –simple as that.
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But more often they were uninspired –humdrum even– and in such cases one might smile politely. Fleetingly.
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But –and I hasten (I am dear reader, aware that I have already hastened earlier, and only too aware that I should perhaps REALLY consider “hastening” overall)– I laughed at The Good Fart Joke, NOT because it was a Fart Joke, but because it was GOOD.
(Did somebody else just say that?)
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It is at this point –and, to be sure, not before time, that I come to the matter at hand –The Fart Joke in Moby Dick.
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I had remarked to my friend Beth Gorrie of Staten Island OutLoud –who has organized a Melville Day reading from “Moby Dick” to be held at the beautiful and historic setting of Fort Wadsworth, with the wonderful backdrop setting of the Inner Harbor, the Verrazano Bridge, and Manhattan in the distance, on Saturday 1st of August, at 6.30 pm (perhaps you will join us)– that I had been hearing recently that “Moby Dick” was being talked of as “a really funny book” or even as “one of the funniest books in the English language.”
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I thought I would look into it, do a little research, a little googling, and see what I could come up with.
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Anbd that’s when I found “The Moby Dick Fart Joke” –in a lit-blog called Power Moby-Dick; the online annotation from “Beowulf on the Beach: what to love and what to skip in literature’s 50 greatest hits” by Jack Murnighan (Three Rivers Press, 2009).
It’s a well-written blog which I heartily recommend to your attention.
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Here, briefly quoted, is the relevant excerpt:
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“Ishmael, as it should happen, proves to be the genial, desperado philosopher extraordinaire. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find his equal anywhere in the history of literature. One tiny example should suffice. On the fourth page of the novel proper, having already told us that he’s a little down on his luck and light in the purse, he makes the stoical aside that “in this world, head winds are far more prevalent than winds from astern”—sound philosophy from a hard-luck sailor. But then he qualifies his sobering truism by saying, “That is, if you never violate the Pythagorean maxim.” Subtle joke, easy to miss, for you’re probably thinking Pythagoras, who’s that? Oh, yeah, a-squared plus b-squared equals c-squared. But that’s not the Pythagorean maxim he’s talking about. What you need to know (and sadly this isn’t explained in most editions) is that there is a two-word fragment of Pythagoras’ writings that simply says: Avoid beans. This is the maxim Ishmael’s referring to, with all its wind-from-astern implications, thereby creating what might be the highest-brow fart joke ever told. ”
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There you have it. And worth waiting for, I’ll warrant.
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At least –I hope so.
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We will discuss it later.
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[I write here not only as Blog-Director but also Founder Of the Order of Paleo Flatii.][Enquiries: Contact us]
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