Killing Miss Prignasal

The attempt to kill Miss Prignasal has been going on for a long time. I once saw a stage comedy from the 1920s in which the boorish boss character punctuated most of his lines by yelling "G--- d-----!" I suppose this language was hot stuff back then. Even eighty years later, it got a good laugh the first couple of times as we came to understand what this character was about. After that, the response was only that nervous titter emitted by an audience when they know they're supposed to respond, but aren't sure they want to any more.

The attempts on Miss Prignasal's life became more determined in the 1960s, which I remember well. I am old enough to remember some of the 1950s and its expectations of conformity. Apparently, I wasn't the only one who was unwilling to accept them, and bucking such expectations can be a good thing if they've gotten out of hand. But, as with many lessons of the 1960s, the real issue of reasonable individual freedom was forgotten, and tilling the anti-field of the out-of-bounds became a goal in itself.

Now that soil grows only weeds. Miss Prignasal's body is buried out there somewhere, but her decaying carcass turned out to be not very good fertilizer. But what did anyone really expect? Have her murderers even noticed that she's dead?

This issue goes far beyond the use of words that used to get children's mouths washed out with soap. Crassness and disrespect are now the basic construction materials of many writers. Trashiness-on-purpose has become a virtue.

I can't exactly say this will come to a bad end, because I think it already has. Ideas matter, even bad ideas. Art matters, even bad art. If ugliness is what we consume, ugly is what we become. That's the power of art. Is that what we want?

Agnes Prignasal terrorized us with just how blue her nose could be (and it thrilled her to do so). To her, good riddance. But Agnes has a classy cousin who is a very different person. Due to a strong family resemblance, some people have a hard time telling them apart, while others, who ought to know better, don't seem to care. But I, for one, hope we will become much better acquainted.

1/7/2013 5:00:00 AM