One of my academic friends posted recently to a number of Amazon reviews left by one Hamilton Richardson. All of Richardson’s reviews pertain to various classics in the Roger Hargreaves Mr Men canon. What’s more unusual than a grown man writing a series of detailed reviews about these enduring children’s books, is that all of them favour the stylised prose of the post-structuralist academic.
One of the reviews, ‘Mr Tickle’, (averaging 4 out of 5 stars, incidentally) was uncannily akin to the prose of Pluto’s own John Holloway – though perhaps less effusive. Still, the following critique would find itself well at home in the pages of How to Change the World Without Taking Power, or Crack Capitalism:
What a glorious anomaly we find in Mr Tickle – a breath of fresh air from the unrestrained id. The all-consuming sensual delight he offers relentlessly disrupts the social order. A postman drops all his letters in a puddle, the tickling of a policeman causes a traffic jam, and the unbearable reverie he inflicts upon a station master brings the local rail network to a temporary standstill. There is something almost Bakhtinian about the manner in which he tickles a dour schoolmaster until he loses control in front of his class.
But Mr Tickle is not Stirner’s Egoist, nor does he proclaim ‘do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law’. And if he is a terrorist, his weapons are laughter and ecstasy. Though his principal targets may well be those who wear uniforms – those who exercise, embody and therefore are most in the grip of Authority – we would be mistaken to think that Hargreaves’ purpose is to challenge the external Social Order. Rather, it is to loosen the vice-like grip of an interior foe: the overdeveloped Superego.
We note that Mr Tickle himself is no slave to sensory delight – quite the opposite; he is a model of psychical equilibrium. At the end of his day’s escapades he relaxes in an armchair, sated and quiescent. Our hero preaches a message of catharsis – a call to arms against becoming too bogged down by self-suppression and normative regulation. Via psychoanalysis, we arrive at an Aristotlean middle way, and are left with the gentle realisation of our need to give a measure of expression to desire and joy.
They’re all an absolute treat. Read them here now, and mull on the social consequences of some top-notch reviewing. :)