6.0109 Forks Taken and Not (3/118)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Wed, 1 Jul 1992 10:07:44 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 6, No. 0109. Wednesday, 1 Jul 1992.

(1) Date: Thu, 25 Jun 92 17:05:24 EDT (16 lines)
From: Bernard.van't.Hul@um.cc.umich.edu
Subject: 6.0102 Rs: Used Books; Forks

(2) Date: Thu, 25 Jun 92 20:27:20 EDT (61 lines)
From: Bernard.van't.Hul@um.cc.umich.edu
Subject: 6.0102 Rs: Used Books; Forks

(3) Date: Sun, 28 Jun 1992 21:09 EDT (41 lines)
Subject: The Fork Not Taken

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Thu, 25 Jun 92 17:05:24 EDT
From: Bernard.van't.Hul@um.cc.umich.edu
Subject: 6.0102 Rs: Used Books; Forks

One is touched to "hear" the exuberance -- the almost violent delight --
in Noel Polk's report on the "definitive" outcome of his research into
the matter of the forks.
Is not, though touched, convinced.
If some-Dantesque HUMANIST subscriber were to manage an interview with
Sophocles, in which Sophocles were to declare that in the character of
Oedipus there was NO "COMPLEX" at all, the divagations of Freud would be
unaffected by the findings of that "research."
In remarking the flagrancy of Noel Polk's intentional fallacy, one does
not call his good intentions into question.
Professor Donaldson's reading of his text is unconvincing in a world
whose *viae* are too forkful to afford leisurely finesse at table.
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------70----
Date: Thu, 25 Jun 92 20:27:20 EDT
From: Bernard.van't.Hul@um.cc.umich.edu
Subject: 6.0102 Rs: Used Books; Forks

The protagonist who "knew the forks" remains in my view the
opportunistis sojourner on the forkful road of life -- the
research of Polk into the mind of author Donaldson to the
contrary withstanding.

Having been "persuaded by the suggestion that the whole
debate [about the man who knew the forks] is based on a
misprint, and that "forks" should read "forms," Mr. Sean
O'Cathasaigh should NOT now be dissuaded by Mr.Noel Polk's
finding for *forks* -- in the mind of author Donaldson.
Of course one assumes HUMANIST Polk's probity, and author
Donaldson's too. However, believing that Donaldson SPELLED
the *forks* of his printed text does not utterly obviate
O'Cathasaigh's *forms*-for-*forks* emendation.
O'Cathasaigh's error was merely of *locus*.

Polk's finding does not end conjecture; it shifts the focus
of it -- from conceivable *misprint* on page to probable
slip in authorial psyche or flaw of his imagination.

That is to say:
One accepts as fact and rejects as dull Donaldson's motory
execution of his reported intention to spell AND "mean" the
tableware kind of *forks*. If the Polk finding challenges
the O'Cathasaigh presumption of *misprint*, it does NOT
diminish the heuristic force of O'Cathasaigh's *forms*
itself -- which emboldens one to proffer a yet-more
satisfactory reading than EITHER *forks* (in road AND on
table) OR *forms* -- a reading that embraces AND moves
BEYOND both.

That reading would of course be *FORDS*.
There is no time to articulate here the elegance embedded in
the pragmatic-opportunistic protagonist's knowing of "fords"
in their polysemous variety.
No time
(a) to explain why the protagonist's knowing Mistress and
Master ("the Fords" of Shakespeare's *Merry Wives...*)
makes him ever-mindful not to arouse the ire of a
jealous husband on his opportunistic way to all of the
"rooms at the top"; or time
(b) to imagine that in his hobbing and nobbing with
erstwhile occupants of the American White House, the
opportunistic protagonist is made aware that "Tout
comprendre, c'est tout pardonner [prudentially rendered
as 'Enlightened self-interest obliges one to grant a
criminal predecessor a pardon']"; or time
(c) to insist that an opportunistic protagonist is
especially well served by a nose for where -- between
*forks [in road, on table]* -- he will ford the f[j]ords
that would foil any visionary dining-room dilettante;
or time
(d) to predict that his knowing an Edsel from a Mustang will
grease any opportunistic protagonist's political skids
in this most Japan-bashing of times.

One looks forward to reading Donaldson's book.
(3) --------------------------------------------------------------49----
Date: Sun, 28 Jun 1992 21:09 EDT
Subject: The Fork Not Taken

An article in today's (Sunday, June 28) New York Times by
Alessandra Stanley offers information on Martin Scorsese's
efforts in bringing to the screen Edith Wharton's "The Age
of Innocence."

It also provides an insight into the meaning of "he knew the
forks." Ms. Stanley writes:

To understand Wharton's tribe, Mr. Scorsese spent
nearly two years immersed in the fine points of
heritage and breeding. There is now little about
watch fobs, lobster forks, tea parties or portraits
by John Singer Sargent that he does not know.

Later in the article, she quotes Scorsese himself as saying:

Basic good manners and etiquette are pretty much the
same, but when you have the choice of 70 different
forks, and I mean <it.>70 forks<it.>, that's fascina-

To know one's forks was (is), then, no small feat. And, of
course, choosing the wrong fork in Wharton's society could
certainly make "all the difference" just as choosing from
diverging paths.

There is, too, a text (or perhaps an iconography) where the
two notions of forks offered in this discussion do indeed
merge and become one. I refer, of course, to the map
displayed by Art Fern (I believe that's his name), the host
of the matinee or tea-time movie in that show within a show,
viz., the skit on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show. The map
displayed the "fork in the road," proving all our readings

John Dorenkamp
Holy Cross College