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New York Times, April 26, 1871. This is kind of cool: an editorial devoted to the subject of journalistic coverage of wild man stories nationwide. That’s pretty much the same theme I was working when I gave my talk on stage the other night, except I was focusing on wild women exclusively. But it’s time to acknowledge that wilding was numerically a male-dominated field of endeavor. No idea who the mutable Mr. Home is here, but I like the idea of the itinerant wild person changing sex between regional gigs.
“Confining himself . . . to that border of civilization where contact with nature keeps the imagination fresh and vivid, undulled by the prosaic realities of city life”: You cannot beat that for diplomatic euphony. Translation: Rural life is dull as dishwater and yokels be yokels.
I’ve got a couple examples of this phenomenon saved somewhere, whereby a wild woman once caught loses about three feet in height, half of her hair, and all of her superhuman leaping abilities. The newspapers typically don’t acknowledge the disappointing discrepancy between the before and after profiles of the wild person in question. Anyway, we need a technical term for this kind of shortfall.
I like how the editorialist is using “authenticity” here to distinguish the completely mythic from the merely exaggerated.
So the wild men too had the leaping gene and the penchant for kidnapping, though of course they were interested in ravishing the womenfolk where wild women tended to target babies and small children.

I like this proto-Fortean conclusion, whereby the tongue-in-cheek attitude is balanced by a call to investigate. Frank Rich does a decent job, but otherwise you just don’t find stuff this thoughtful on the Times editorial pages anymore.

5 Comments

  1. “Rascality” is a great word. It sounds like it should be the name of the wackiest evil software company ever. “My computer keeps throwing pies at me! Curse you, Rascality Suite 3.0!”

  2. It’s true: rascality must needs be put back into circulation.

    • …until it’s made obsolete by rapscality and new blue razzscality (CONTAINS NO FRUIT JUICE).

  3. I had to look up horrent. It seems to be more closely related to “horrendous” than to “abhorrent” though.

    Also, did it never occur to anyone that the simplest explanation for the ability to change size, gender, and location might be that they were dealing with more than one wild man?

  4. I was also wondering about “horrent” , but I couldn’t be bothered to look it up. (Thanks , Jackie.)Mostly I was marvelling at how these yokels ,realizing their captive “wild man” was just some poor wretched lunatic , chained him in the outhouse for some torment. Nice. I guess if it really was some slavering beast from hell ,they would have made him parade marshall and fed him their sisters or something.


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