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Bored of the Rings, a parody by the Harvard Lampoon. A Signet Book. $1.00.
AS TRADITION would have it, parody at Harvard has long been the Lampoon's turf. Of course, since it's only a tradition, it's probably wrong, but it's an appealing concept nonetheless. For if the cause of all that goes crazy and askew in this University could be traced to the Poun's Mt. Auburn Street castle, things would be considerably less complicated. For example, consider The Events of Last April. If we had only all been working under the common assumption that The Master of Royels-or, perhaps, you prefer, The Lord of Misrule- was billeted within the sumptuous confines of the Poon's matchbox Versailles, then there would have been no need for all the soul-searching and witch-hunting that was to follow. We could have all just pointed a communal finger at the Poon, shouted a hearty Faccuse and that would have been that.
Unfortunately though, the Poon holds no monopoly over parody. For parody has been proliferating all around us, until it has now become the very Soul of the Age. No one can any longer be quite sure what is parody and what is not, There are, of course, the obvious exceptions. Spiro as V.P. is a deja vu parody of Richard as V.P.: Tricia. dressed as a gypsy princess at a White House Halloween party, is out to parody her sister Julie's marriage to a grinning David: and airline hijacker Rafael Minichiello is certainly a master parodist even if TWA is hesitant to admit it. But most other examples-particularly, those that aren't performed on a nationwide scale-are less clear cut. One might ask. for example, is The Independent a parody of The Gazette or is each merely a self-parody of itself? There are no longer any norms by which to judge the exaggeration.
In this context, Bored of the Rings is a commendable attempt to re-establish the genre along its old classical lines. As with any decent parody, Bored operates on the assumption that anyone who might be frivolous enough to spend a buck on anything that bears the Lampoon's moniker must have already been foolish enough to read through all of J.R.R. Tolkein's The Lord of the Rings trilogy. So. it is only fitting and just, that Bored tells the mythopoetic fable of one Frito Bugger, an odious little Boggie. who accompanies the wizardly Goodgulf on a haphazard junket across Lower Middle Earth. Their mission: to dispose of an evil Ring by tossing it into the Zaza Pitts of Fordor before being captured by the nasty nares. With self-consciously clever digressions on drugs, violence, and the difficulties of modern communication, this book is undoubtedly meant to be received as an Epic for Our Time.
WHICH MIGHT all be very fine, if one didn't also have to read the damn thing. For when epics grow out of the Oral Stage, they lose something of their amiability. Bored has a distressing habit of repeating again and again the perverse patterns on which its humor depends. Every paragraph is sure to mention at least one refugee from a Medieval Bestiary, along with two unrelated brand names.
But, then, must a work of art be judged solely on its merits? Of far more interest, is the provocative question: Who wrote Bored of the Rings? It is highly suspect that during a summer when the Lampoon ground out its second Time parody, recorded its Surprising Sheep album, and ran at least one candidate for the mayoralty of New York, these latter-day Barnums could also have published a 160-page paperback. First editions do claim to have been authored by "Henry N. Beard and Douglas C. Kenney," who enthusiastically confess in a chatty little Forward how they overcame being 'handicapped by near-fatal hangovers and the loss of all our bodily hair (but that's another story).' Another story, indeed! For between this brace of leering parentheses, the whole hoax is revealed. Obviously, the Beard-Kenney persona is just a fictional mask, created by the Real Author in hopes that by hinting at the Ivy League counterpart of a Capote-and-Vidal collaboration, the value of his book's movie rights will escalate astronomically.
And who is this insidious Real Author? you are perhaps driven to ask. Well, enough of such suspense! From the very first paragraph ("Do you like what you both see...? said the voluptuous elf-maiden as she provocatively parted the folds of her robe to reveal the rounded, shadowy glories within."), the Real Author is easily identifiable as none other than the odious Terry Southern. So you see why I had to mention the unfortunate proliferation of parody. Not even the Poon is safe from such unexpected reversals of reality, because this man Southern has done them one better. It should there-fore be no surprise that Bored's second edition already bears a boldly-lettered come-on announcing. "Terry Southern's best book since The Magic Christian. "
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