January 14, 2013

"Must you always be out in that ghastly clown suit, running around annoying people?"

Says Pretty Alice to the Harlequin in Harlan Ellison's "Repent Harlequin!' Said The Ticktockman," which I read on the urging of commenter Icepick because of the way it reflected on the recent news stories about Aaron Swartz, David Gregory, and the Boston ban on drinking games.

I downloaded this Orson Scott Card collection — "Masterpieces: The Best Science Fiction of the 20th Century" — which included "Repent Harlequin," because I wanted to understand this harlequin/ticktockman distinction, and lo and behold here's the harlequin — actually, what do you expect? he's a harlequin — wearing a clown suit, when just 5 days ago, the bloggism of the day was clown suits. We were pimping clown suits.



It's weird how these themes seem to coagulate on their own.



IN THE COMMENTS: Astro said points out that my Picasso clown isn't a harlequin. I need to be better about specifying the Commedia dell'arte characters. Here's a Picasso harlequin (on the right):

15 comments:

Lem said...

Going just a little further back to Dec 1... there was the pope and the clown.

Astro said...

Except that's not a proper harlequin costume. The harlequin pattern is a type of checkerboard diamond pattern, with diamonds like the diamonds on a playing card.
harlequin
That clown costume is clearly squares in a standard checkerboard pattern.
Maybe pedantic, but that is, after all, what harlequin means.

Quaestor said...

It's weird how these themes seem to coagulate on their own.

Jungian synchronicity at work.

Christy said...

I loved "Arlecchino, Servant of Two Masters" so much that I saw the production twice and was inspired to begin a collection of harlequins. Odd, but I never think of them as clowns.

rcommal said...

Speaking of commedia dell'arte, a glimpse of Meade.

rcommal said...

Christy: It's a matter of order. (What morphed into what? Or which, if you prefer. And why?)

rcommal said...

What I mean, Christy, is that what we think of as of clowns now are offspring of history, much like so much else, but not exactly the same thing. (I'd argue it's a much watered-down, less useful form, and alas, but then: whatever.) Notions, like conceptions and contexts, change--as do functions. Nonetheless, when you think of jesters, harlequins and clowns (among other such!), it's not particularly hard to see the threads of connection, nor the different ways the archetypes fit into their respective societies and times.

tim maguire said...

"because I wanted to understand this harlequin/ticktockman distinction"

So what's a ticktockman? An image search wasn't any help.

Pianoman said...

If you read up on Ellison's actions as a writer, you get a better sense that *he* is the Harlequin ... and that the Ticktockman represented anyone in the "establishment" who prized a schedule over everything.

It's a cri de coeur against those for whom the most important value is the "trains running on time".

Pianoman said...

@tim: For Ticktockman, imagine a dystopian version of Dilbert's "Pointy Haired Boss" ...

Mitch H. said...

It's a cri de coeur against those for whom the most important value is the "trains running on time".

Or, you know, anyone who objected to his notion of "in good time". Or didn't feel the need to check Ellison's entire oeuvre for similarities every time they wrote a script.

Mitch H. said...

For Ellison's notion of in good time: the joke that was The Last Dangerous Visions.

tim maguire said...

Thanks pianoman. Now knowing what it means, the name makes a lot of sense.

Christy said...

rcommal, I see your point. Perhaps, because Sister clowned and was in no way similar to Lear's jester, I see such difference in the three. On the other hand, a wide receiver, a tackle, and a safety a ARE all the same to me.

Icepick said...

The one problem with Ellison's story is that in reality the Ticktockman would never, EVER worry about being late. As I recall (and I haven't read it in about a year), the Ticktockman actually believes the rules should apply to everyone. There's a scrupulousness about that usually absent in ruling classes.

...

And since occasionally Althouse gets down into the weeds of punctuation, there is one difference in the story as I read it originally (in Stories from the Hugo Winners Vol II, edited by Isaac Asimov) one part of dialogue goes:

"Repent, Harlequin!" said the Ticktockman.
"Get stuffed."


Later I heard Ellison reading this part of the story, and he says it with an exclamation point:

"Get stuffed!"

In the version I linked to the other day they also use the exclamation point.

So the question I have is, which is the more powerful statement of defiance, the exclamation, or the simple declarative sentence? Personally I like "Get stuffed." better, but that will probably get me sued by Ellison.