Topical Guide 420
Sophistication: Misguided Efforts to Acquire It
Satire: Its Targets’ Blindness to It
Reservations Recommended, Chapter 1:
Those suburbanites do swarm on weekends, congregating in murmurous throngs at restaurants BW has reviewed, regardless of whether he praises the places or damns them. They will go to a place that BW has liked because they expect to enjoy it but will go just as eagerly to a place BW has ridiculed, because they expect to enjoy feeling superior to it. They seize the opportunity to assume BW’s attitude toward it, to wear his sophistication, thus to savor, if only for the space of a meal, a life lived with the savoir-vivre of Boston Biweekly and B. W. Beath. The casual observer, seeing that these vandals wear the clothes that Boston Biweekly’s fashion critic has endorsed and take the attitude toward the restaurant that BW has endorsed, might mistake them for sophisticated adults, but BW wouldn’t be fooled. He often takes a swipe at suburbanites in his reviews. It increases his readership. They all think he’s writing about their neighbors.
Jonathan Swift, The Battle of the Books, “The Preface of the Author”:
Satire is a sort of glass wherein beholders do generally discover everybody’s face but their own; which is the chief reason for that kind reception it meets with in the world, and that so very few are offended with it. But, if it should happen otherwise, the danger is not great; and I have learned from long experience never to apprehend mischief from those understandings I have been able to provoke: for anger and fury, though they add strength to the sinews of the body, yet are found to relax those of the mind, and to render all its efforts feeble and impotent.
H. G. Wells, Tono-Bungay (1908):
So it was that we recognized our new needs as fresh invaders of the upper levels of the social system, and set ourselves quite consciously to the acquisition of Style and Savoir Faire. We became part of what is nowadays quite an important element in the confusion of our world, that multitude of economically ascendent people who are learning how to spend money. . . .
See also: Sophistication: Youthful Efforts to Acquire It TG 416
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I am really enjoying ‘The Young H.G. Wells by Claire Tomalin