Synopses & Reviews
"A serious and good philosophical work could be written consisting entirely of jokes." -- Ludwig Wittgenstein
The good news is that this book offers an entertaining but enlightening compilation of Žižekisms. Unlike any other book by Slavoj Žižek, this compact arrangement of jokes culled from his writings provides an index to certain philosophical, political, and sexual themes that preoccupy him. Žižek's Jokes contains the set-ups and punch lines -- as well as the offenses and insults -- that Žižek is famous for, all in less than 200 pages. So what's the bad news? There is no bad news. There's just the inimitable Slavoj Žižek, disguised as an impossibly erudite, politically incorrect uncle, beginning a sentence, "There is an old Jewish joke, loved by Derrida..." For Žižek, jokes are amusing stories that offer a shortcut to philosophical insight. He illustrates the logic of the Hegelian triad, for example, with three variations of the "Not tonight, dear, I have a headache" classic: first the wife claims a migraine; then the husband does; then the wife exclaims, "Darling, I have a terrible migraine, so let's have some sex to refresh me!" A punch line about a beer bottle provides a Lacanian lesson about one signifier. And a "truly obscene" version of the famous "aristocrats" joke has the family offering a short course in Hegelian thought rather than a display of unspeakables. Žižek's Jokes contains every joke cited, paraphrased, or narrated in Žižek's work in English (including some in unpublished manuscripts), including different versions of the same joke that make different points in different contexts. The larger point being that comedy is central to Žižek's seriousness.
"Jokes should be taken with utmost seriousness, while somber theory should be dismantled with humor is ultimately the lesson of this collection of gags and witticisms culled from the Slovenian thinker's many works of political philosophy. It distills one of the problems with his often dense writing: one tends to remember the joke and miss the point. Edited for length and chosen for maximum impact, many of these jokes will make you laugh: What's the perfect couple? A frog-prince and a bottle of beer! What's the matter with that golfer walking on that water-trap, does he think he's Jesus!? No, he is Jesus, but he thinks he's Tiger Woods! The theoretical point being made, however, is often missing. While Zizek (The Year of Dreaming Dangerously) is able to mobilize jokes about political correctness to take down waterboarding and dirty jokes to explain the convoluted thinking of G.W.F. Hegel and Jacques Lacan, other jokes are left without context. This leaves some bald in their racism: at one point we are reminded of 'an old racist joke,' but the jab at the Roma isn't followed by an anti-racist point... or any at all. This is in part remedied with a list of references to the original works, but the problem leaves some of the 30 pages of new material naked in the sun. In the afterward by Zizek-inspired comedian/artist Momus some of the theoretical import of humor is explored, but in the end it's not clear who's laughing... or why. (Mar.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Slavoj Žižek is a philosopher and cultural critic. He is the author of more than thirty books, including Looking Awry: An Introduction to Jacques Lacan through Popular Culture, The Puppet and the Dwarf: The Perverse Core of Christianity, The Parallax View, and (with John Milbank) The Monstrosity of Christ: Paradox or Dialect, these four published by the MIT Press.