Friday, June 04, 2010

Michael Innes' The Case of the Journeying Boy: Irony, Circa 1949

For those of you who think that irony was invented around 1970, I offer this 1949 description of a cinema billboard advertising a movie:

The Case of the Journeying BoyAcross its monstrous facade sprawled a vast plywood lady. If erect she would be perhaps fifty feet high; she was reclining, however, in an attitude of sultry abandon and equatorial vegetation and in a garment the only prominent feature of which was a disordered shoulder-strap. As a background to the broadly accentuated charms of her person -- pleasantly framed, indeed, between her six-foot, skyward-pointing breasts -- was what appeared to be a two-ocean navy in process of sinking through tropical waters like a stone. One limp hand held a smoking revolver seemingly responsible for this extensive catastrophe. The other, supporting her head, was concealed in a spouting ectoplasm of flaxen hair. Her expression was languorous, provocative, and irradiated by a sort of sanctified lecherousness highly creditable to both the craft and the ardent soul of the unknown painter who had created her. Poised in air, and in curves boldly made to follow the line of her swelling hips, were the words AMOROUS, ARROGANT, ARMED! Above this, in letters ten feet high, was the title PLUTONIUM BLONDE. And higher still, and in rubric scarcely less gigantic, was the simple announcement, ART'S SUPREME ACHIEVEMENT TO DATE.

--from Michael Innes' The Case of the Journeying Boy (1949), p. 54.

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Martin said...

1970? Ha! That would indeed be ridiculous.

Everybody knows that Irony was born in 1982, with the first broadcast of Late Night with David Letterman.

Benjamin Chambers said...

Heh. It's funny, though; I remember watching Letterman in the 1970s, when his show wasn't late night. [Later: a check with Wikipedia indicates I must've seen his short-lived daytime show in 1980.] Perhaps historians of irony will time-stamp its birth more exactly one day.