Buck's Reviews > Man and Superman

Man and Superman by George Bernard Shaw
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Jan 15, 10

bookshelves: histrionics
Recommended for: Norman Lear

No, not that Superman, dumbass. The other one. You know, Nietzsche? The Übermensch? Blond beast? None of this rings a bell? What did you do at that fancy school of yours for four years?

So anyway, Man and Superman is uber-bad. And now I don’t know what to make of Shaw. Heartbreak House was unexpectedly awesome: smart, funny, pessimistic—everything you could ask for in a play. But this one…blech. A lumbering and tendentious monster. It’s like a highbrow, 1905 version of All in the Family: no topical issue left unexplored, no talking point undelivered. Except Shaw gets off a few good lines, which All in the Family never did, as far as I remember. Meathead was a funny name, though. I laughed at that when I was seven.
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message 10: by Lobstergirl (new)

Lobstergirl So, you would not quite call yourself a Shavian.


Buck You know, I was trying to work "Shavian" into my review, just because I like the sound of it.

No, I'm not quite a Shavian. But I'll definitely be going back to Shaw. Eventually.


message 8: by Miriam (new)

Miriam I think Shaw does better talking about trivialities than with "Issues".


Buck Shaw himself was aware of the risks he was taking in being so with-it and issue-oriented. In his ‘epistle dedicatory’, which is rather stunningly eloquent and combative and much better than the play itself, he’s very clear-eyed about his likely fate as a writer:

To younger men they [my opinions:] are already outmoded; for though they have no more lost their logic than an eighteenth century pastel has lost its drawing or its color, yet, like the pastel, they grow indefinably shabby, and will grow shabbier until they cease to count at all, when my books will either perish, or, if the world is still poor enough to want them, will have to stand, with Bunyan’s, by quite amorphous qualities of temper and energy.

Well, exactly.


message 6: by Miriam (new)

Miriam And what are your feelings on Bunyan?


Buck Okay, maybe Bunyan was a bad example on Shaw's part. Or maybe not, since nobody reads Bunyan for moral edification anymore. If he's read at all (which I doubt) it's for his "qualities of temper and energy". Same with Shaw. Who cares about his opinions now? We read him for his wit, style and all those other belle-lettrish things he considered decadent and beneath him.


message 4: by Miriam (new)

Miriam I read Pilgrim's Progress when I was in my teens and actually found it pretty enjoyable. At least the first section, which is what most people think of. When Christian's wife and kids follow his path the whole thing gets pretty repetitive.


Buck You read Pilgrim's Progress in your teens? And you liked it? Did you attend a Baptist girls' school, by any chance?

I'm just teasing you, Miriam. I think that's great--in a geeky sort of way that I can relate to.

Elizabeth, you should try to get your friend to join Goodreads. I love picking fights with massively well-informed people. How else am I going to learn?


message 2: by Miriam (new)

Miriam Nope -- a public school in San Francisco which, although I didn't realize it at the time, is classified as "inner city". We didn't learn anything, so there was plenty of time to read behind my textbooks.

One of the things I liked about PP was how it suddenly made a lot of allusions in others works make sense.


message 1: by Miriam (new)

Miriam I think I was reading something from the 19th century where the family was acting out Pilgrim's Progress of a winter evening.


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