Saturday, December 12, 2009


From the chapter "A Complete Analysis of Winnie-the-Pooh," by Duns C. Penwiper, in The Pooh Perplex, by Frederick Crews:

"We may thus set ourselves the all-important task of deciding just which, among the many potential forms of art, inhabits the essential entelechy of Pooh."

Entelechy, to put it mildly, an unattractive word. It is not even ugly-beautiful. One part blech and two parts bad orthopedic shoe--at least, in this early/late hour, after seeing a beautiful black and white film featuring metal type and people speaking Italian. It also reeks of the academy, though whether more or less so since the book's publication in 1963 I cannot hazard a guess.

However, it did send me to the dictionary (Webster's Tenth , 3-D version, lists as its second definition: "a hypothetical agency not demonstrable by scientific methods that in some vitalist doctrines is considered an inherent regulating and directing force in the development and functioning of an organism."

Because entelechy sent me to the dictionary, it gains in inner beauty what it lacks in visual and, debatably, aural beauty (Entebbe, anyone?), though stress-wise, it is perfectly fine, having undulate aural qualities not entirely unlike those of cacophony, Schenectady, Hermione, and olfactory.

I think it's just fine to be sent to the dictionary, with its etymological references and dates and that pronounciation guide in the lower right corner (the regularly placed Tiffany ad of Webster's Tenth--note how I'm not even saying anything about the frog and the dragonfly appearing as a couple in Tiffany's holiday windows). I like to imagine that once upon a time, many people shared my pro-dictionary sentiment--people such as headmasters, all over New York City.

This is a roundabout way of arriving at one of the dominant thought bubbles of my day, featuring an article from today's New York Times, about the "more current" and "fresher" Harvard Business Review. This translates into good riddance for the cover list of articles and a welcome mat for a redesigned logo as well as cover art.

How unfortunate that Harvard or the B School has arrived at this point where its . . . trustees? . . . are no longer content to have a standout cover which signals no-nonsense gravitas (even if the Minto Method doesn't ensure clarity of expression in those case studies), much in the way that Foreign Affairs stands out. For me the Review has always been one of the easiest magazine to pull from a crowd. Its cover has always been so easily distinguised from the rest of the crowd.

But truly puzzling were these comments by the editor in chief of the Harvard Business Review Group, which, according to the article by Stephanie Clifford, read like so: "The magazine in the past was sort of one 10-page story after another. I think we've kind of insulted our readers' intelligence with the assumption that everything has to be serious, everything has to be long form."

The difference between these statements and the statement, above, by Frederick Crews-Duns C. Penwiper, is that Crews was being intentionally satiric.

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