From Round to Square (and back)

For The Emperor's Teacher, scroll down (↓) to "Topics." It's the management book that will rock the world (and break the vase, as you will see). Click or paste the following link for a recent profile of the project:

A new post appears every day at 12:05* (CDT). There's more, though. Take a look at the right-hand side of the page for over four years of material (2,000 posts and growing) from Seinfeld and country music to every single day of the Chinese lunar calendar...translated. Look here ↓ and explore a little. It will take you all the way down the page...from round to square (and back again).
*Occasionally I will leave a long post up for thirty-six hours, and post a shorter entry at noon the next day.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Displays of Authenticity (14)—Prairie Journalist

[a] Grand Forks RF
I have been struggling the last few days to reconcile the concepts of irony and authenticity. That is the biggest reason why you have not seen the suddenly ubiquitous visage of Marilyn Hagerty on the pages of Round and Square until today. She has been everywhere this past week, and you might assume that she would vault straight to the "front page," so many heartbeats of this blog does she touch. North Dakota? ✓Check. The craft of writing? ✓Check. Even prairie ethnography? ✓✓Check, check.

No need. You had me at "North Dakota."
[b] Fruit or vegetable? RF
Marilyn Hagerty exudes authenticity—prairie authenticity. She has written for the Grand Forks Herald and other North Dakota media for the better part of seven decades. Out of the hundreds upon hundreds of stories and columns she has written over the years for her eastern North Dakota readers, a little review of a restaurant chain named after a fruit that won't grow easily on the Canadian border...went viral. She wrote a review of the new Olive Garden restaurant in Grand Forks, and readers all over the planet ended up savoring it before sending it on to others.

She had no idea, and she didn't particularly care—not in the "now I'm famous" way, at least.

Her authenticity has been on display in various media outlets in the last week, so let's take a look at a few articles on Marilyn Hagerty. It will buy me just a little more time to think about the interstices between irony and authenticity. You see, Ms. Hagerty has me stumped. On the one hand, she is Everygrandma with a pen and a newspaper column. On the other hand, she is so guileless that her disarming phrases appear to be a formidable strain of savvy.

[c] Forks RF
What do we make of someone like Hagerty, who seems (to me) to be irony-proof and beyond mockery? How can mockery work if the mocked won't play? Better yet, what if she goes on a whirlwind tour of New York (sampling various foods in multiple venues along the way)? What if just about every attempt to undercut her turns on the teller? Few one-liners are as elegant as this octogenarian Dakotan's response after asking a New Yorker the meaning of حلال ḥalāl

"I'm Lutheran, so that wouldn't apply to me." 

I would like to write more (you know that I almost always do), but I am befuddled, and wonder WWWBD? I have checked and rechecked "the transcript." I have read her own account of her trip to New York, and I have watched her interviews. Take a further read and listen, and just tell me if you see guile anywhere. I say that the most jaded sophisticate will be defanged within minutes. In the Art of War, Sunzi (Sun-tzu) writes of generals who have mastered this skill. Is it possible that this is a practiced kind of Lutefisk Strategem? I am about as speechless as I get, so I will let Marilyn Hagerty's voice carry us through today's post. Read and listen to every word. Really.
I think the Coen brothers have met their match.
[d] Guileless RF

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