This history of the ridiculous is an extremely interesting and irreverent look at the antics of our ancestors. As I read I didn’t get the theory bit, because historical action seems to defy any theorisation. Well, yes, that is kind of ironic! And it is certainly ironic that so often an action has the opposite effect to that intended. However, as for the word ‘irony’ in the title, far from all the happenings mentioned in the book, or even a majority, really coalesce around irony. As I progressed, it appeared to be the absence of logic, the incongruity of the action, the paradox, rather than the sometimes irony that was significant in the books subject matter? Though, I found some of the best material to be in passages where true irony was immediately clear to me. With a nod to the sub-title pf the book, it’s certainly deeply ironic that the high point of the ‘one small step’ on the moon presently seems to distilled down to the swinging of a golf club in one sixth of Earth’s gravity rather than in a ‘giant step’ into a God given future for mankind.
The history of man is certain overflowing with the absurd. Hindsight allows us to see tragic irony in so much of the pattern of historic incongruity. At finish, the point of the book for me finally emerged as the irony in the fact that it is impossible to find any consistency in history other than total inconsistency, chaos. Perhaps if I was less stupid I would have concluded that before I reached the end notes, or have I yet missed something deeper?
Norden imparts a great deal of information, all of which is referenced for those that wish to find out more, or to question his irreverent points. The historical events and often whimsical anecdotes are strung together in a logical chronology, with an occasional leap into the experiences of Norden himself. Usually these injections are amusing, though sometimes distracting. I definitely felt a strain between Norden as an academic thinker and him leaning towards writing an adult version of Sellar and Yeatman’s humorous “1066 And All That”. Personally, I couldn’t get enough of the entertainer in Norden in his most cynical and humorous deductions. I look forward to reading more hapless history, or illogical law or pothead politics, all of which I’d be less than surprised to see appearing in print from Norden. I very much enjoyed this non-fiction that points out that fact is often more absurd than most fiction.