Thursday, September 13, 2012


Sock Q. Puppet, Esq.

"The idea of a patron saint of sock-puppetry is more than a little incoherent (perhaps St Bernardino of Siena pretending to be St Francis de Sales?), but if the practice did want at least an honoured ancestor, then I'd propose some form of monument to Esdras Barnivelt. Esdras Barnivelt was writing in the period when reviewing, publicity and the widespread discussion of literature in broadsheets, newspapers and magazines was just emerging. He wrote a pamphlet called A Key To The Lock, subtitled "a Treatise proving, beyond all Contradiction, the dangerous Tendency of a late Poem entitled The Rape of the Lock to Government and Religion", claiming that Pope's witty mock-heroic was actually a coded allegory about the Barrier Treaty. The joke is, of course, that Esdras Barnivelt was actually Alexander Pope himself."

The Guardian's amusing take on the historical roots of sock-puppetry is, as Sue Townsend once charmingly said of a character, so posh as to be practically indecipherable.

27 Comments / Post A Comment


I remember the story when it happened, but reliving it with a big hearty LOL at Wikipedia's pithy description: "In April 2010 British historian Orlando Figes was discovered to have written critical reviews of books by professional rivals on the Amazon.com website under the names 'orlando-birkbeck' and 'historian.'"


A legend, worthy of our respect!@l


all these posts about sock puppets lately ... it's like you guys suspect something ...


@redheaded&crazie SHH RH&C THEY'LL REALISE


@Decca Decca is sooooooooooooo cool


@redheaded&crazie Yeah I think Decca should be queen of the Hairpin don't you agree


@Decca shit what account is this


Thanks, Hairpin, for having me fall down a Google hole (without reading the article) to find out that there IS a patron saint of puppeteers. His name is Simeon the Holy Fool, he is usually depicted with a hand puppet or with a dead dog, and he sounds...interesting.




I mean...

"During the church services, he threw nuts at the clergy and blew out the candles. In the circus, he wrapped his arms around the dancing-girls and went skipping and dancing across the arena. In the streets, he tripped people up, developed a theatrical limp, and dragged himself around on his buttocks. In the bath-house, he ran naked into the crowded women's section. On solemn fasting days he feasted riotously, consuming vast amounts of beans – with predictable and hilarious results. In his lifetime, Simeon was regarded as a madman, as an unholy scandal.

IT WAS ONLY AFTER his death that the secret life of Simeon came to light. People started to talk about his acts of kindness – and about his strange and powerful miracles. There was the poor mule driver whose vinegar Simeon turned into wine so that he could start a successful tavern. There was the rich man who was saved from death when Simeon threw a lucky triple six at dice. And there was the young man Simeon punched on the jaw to save him from an affair with a married woman."


Wow. I want a Simeon biopic, starring Will Arnett as the holy fool himself.


@Decca I kind of pictured Russell Brand...?


@TheLetterL Realtalk, though, I don't think bro-punching sense into a dude is actually a proper miracle. It's just a good work.


@TheLetterL This comment sums up everything I love about the hairpin.


@TheLetterL That is my kind of Saint!


I was really, naively disappointed when neither linked article was about puppets made out of socks.



dj pomegranate

@SarahP I was really confused, and then disappointed, and then intrigued.


@redheaded&crazie redheaded&crazie is the BEST, no matter what the other message boards say about her!


@SarahP *lip wobble* what are the other message boards saying about me?


I had forgotten about sock-puppetry's metaphoric meaning so I was really confused by the first couple paragraphs of the article. "You're right, this IS indecipherable!"


i am glad someone got around to writing this. it's been weird reading the outrage about sockpuppeteering by novelists/historians/etc (plus grant "chairman of the conservative party" shapps removing negative references from his wikipedia page) because people seem to write about it as if it's something unique and new that the internet has suddenly made possible. But 18th and 19th century pamphlet culture basically ran on people anonymously attacking their literary and political rivals and bigging up their own and their mates' work.


The joke is, of course

Mmm. Yes. Of course.

fondue with cheddar

And now I'm having flashbacks to my end-of-the-year report and presentation on the history of puppetry in sixth grade, complete with examples of actual puppets. I'm not ashamed to say that it was totally the best in the class, even better than the one about Lizzie Borden. It was my proudest childhood moment and I will not pretend to be modest.

Making shadow puppets was fun.


OK, but this is still the place where I note that an iteration of Sifl & Olly is returning as a fake video game reviewing webseriesthing.

New Hoarder

This reminds me of the part in The Little Mermaid where Ariel and Eric go to town and Ariel pulls a puppet off of the hand of the puppeteer and Eric's so charmed.

Also The Seventh Seal. That's all I know about that.


The Guardian (especially on a Saturday) is one of the things that I love. But the Review section is atrocious. Who understands it, except the people who write it? Up their own arse writers writing up their own arse writing. This fits right in. Especially "the joke, of course,....". It's like your English teacher roaring with laughter at the Shakespearean word play on the school trip to see Twelfth Night. It wasn't that funny in the 1600s and by 1987 it was definitely not hilarious.

Post a Comment

You must be logged-in to post a comment.

Login To Your Account