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• • •
"Mike and Jon, Jon and Mike—I've known them both for years, and, clearly, one of them is very funny. As for the other: truly one of the great hangers-on of our time."—Steve Bodow, head writer, The Daily Show

"Who can really judge what's funny? If humor is a subjective medium, then can there be something that is really and truly hilarious? Me. This book."—Daniel Handler, author, Adverbs, and personal representative of Lemony Snicket

"The good news: I thought Our Kampf was consistently hilarious. The bad news: I’m the guy who wrote Monkeybone."—Sam Hamm, screenwriter, Batman, Batman Returns, and Homecoming

February 07, 2009

The Singing Detective

Why is The Singing Detective maybe the best title for a work of art ever?

I'll explain later today, but in the meantime let me know what you think.

LATER: "The Singing Detective" is the most precise and concise description there is of the beautiful side of human beings.

People all have two powerful, positive urges. One is our drive to understand the world; each of us is thrown into an existence that begins as a complete mystery to us in every way, and we spend our lives trying to crack the case. That's why so many works of fiction have a detective as the protagonist.

The second urge is our soulfulness, our desperation to express what our existence is like. Sometimes this comes out literally as singing, sometimes metaphorically. But everyone is doing it in some way.

What is a person? He/she is a singing detective.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at February 7, 2009 09:07 AM

It is the highest quality of ironic juxtaposition.

Posted by: En Ming Hee at February 7, 2009 09:59 AM

It is the highest quality of ironic juxtaposition.

That's part of what I'm thinking of, but just a small part. There's much more to it.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at February 7, 2009 11:20 AM

The best? In a world which saw "Faster pussycat, kill, kill". Please.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at February 7, 2009 11:34 AM

Because Dennis Potter was a genius?

Posted by: Seth at February 7, 2009 01:01 PM

actually 'the long, dark teatime of the soul' is the best title for a work of art in all of history.

Posted by: almostinfamous at February 7, 2009 01:21 PM

It isn't. "Speak, Memory" is.

Posted by: Rosemary Molloy at February 7, 2009 01:41 PM

I prefer Pnin.

Posted by: Brian at February 7, 2009 02:17 PM

Looking forward to reading the answer, but have to say that the juxtaposition with "Whistling Past the Graveyard" below is creating a macabre musical vibe...

Posted by: Nell at February 7, 2009 02:36 PM

How is it better than "Your Right-Hand Thief"?-- and that's only a blog title.

"Apocalypse Hoboken"?-- band name

"Something Liquid This Way Comes"-- adult film title

"Confederacy of Dunces"-- book title

"The Singing Detective" just doesn't seem obviously the best ever to me, is what I'm getting at.

Posted by: oyster at February 7, 2009 05:33 PM

What do detectives do, they snoop into other people’s lives in order to implement punishment of those people who are guilty of whatever crime or wrongdoing as perceived by society. It is a manifestation of “authority” a tool used to subjugate people under authoritarian regimes like our own. Generally people’s lives are made more miserable than need be under authoritarian regimes. So in essence a detective is a tool used to make people more miserable in order to maintain the status quo of those who posses authority. Singing on the other hand represents a form of happiness so a singing detective is a detective that finds happiness in making other people miserable while maintaining the authoritarian state because in the detective’s world view the detective is most comfortable in relinquishing all thought to those in authority. It’s the same reason Obama-ites will support Obama when Obama does the same things Bush did but would condemn those same actions when done by a person of a political party that they don’t belong to. Tribalism.

Posted by: Rob Payne at February 7, 2009 07:31 PM

Musical dick jokes checking in.

Posted by: tim at February 7, 2009 07:46 PM

How long do we have to wait for this update?!?!?!

Posted by: ethan at February 7, 2009 08:42 PM

I’d agree with that, it’s what religion and science started out as though no longer is.

Posted by: Rob Payne at February 7, 2009 09:28 PM

You might have me here with The Laughing Detective..... Singing, eh.

Posted by: Aaron Datesman at February 7, 2009 09:42 PM

The Grand Inquisitor of song

Posted by: bobbyp at February 7, 2009 10:02 PM

Mr. Schwarz, I love you more than words can say.

Posted by: ethan at February 7, 2009 10:40 PM

I'm partial to the animated version of "The Tick", who, like Tom Jones and your detective, was also a sort of foundling. I used to exclusively like Art That's Good For You and pooh-pooh stuff like The Tick, but after Oprah and George Bush,jr shared their literary derelictions with us, I came to my non-highbrow senses.

(I wait with bated breath for Hollywood to inevitably ruin Tin-Tin for me, something you'd think they could legislate against.)

Posted by: Jonathan Versen at February 7, 2009 11:27 PM

My copy of Our Kampf was purchased because of posts like this. I going to preach this to my illiterate friends and blow their minds.

Posted by: B Wadford at February 8, 2009 02:35 AM

the reason why i bought Our Kampf and why i'm going to use it on some illiterate friends and blow their minds

Posted by: B Wadford at February 8, 2009 02:40 AM

Poignant, beautiful. I am moved. I've been reading this blog for several years now, the writing is consistently of the highest quality, but this is a gem amongst gems.

Posted by: Michael Hughes at February 8, 2009 02:41 AM

pray tell, why are you watching that again now.

Posted by: hapa at February 8, 2009 03:28 AM

best tidbit i heard last few days was, if money gets real bad, most countries're much better organized and informed than they were in 1929 and are unlikely to collapse into catalyzing terror of shadows.

Posted by: hapa at February 8, 2009 03:33 AM

you sure it's not "vanity of vanities, and a striving after the wind"?

Posted by: abb1 at February 8, 2009 08:26 AM

Re: Our Kampf...

For years I've been trying to convince Jon to write a book. It's not fair for Schwarzheads to have to slog through all that stuff by the other guy.

Please tell him you'd buy it, so he will write it. I'd even design and publish it for him. The man's been a walking manifesto for as long as I've known him.

Posted by: Mike of Angle at February 8, 2009 04:05 PM

maybe he could call it, a practical guide to saving humanity from the 20th century

Posted by: hapa at February 8, 2009 05:38 PM

I'd buy it, Jon.

Posted by: Save the Oocytes at February 9, 2009 08:48 AM

I deeply miss Dennis Potter.

I also miss the PBS of yore, when we'd get several really good pieces of drama, docs, etc. per month, instead of all the other crap that fills their days.

Posted by: catherine at February 9, 2009 02:38 PM

Mike of A: Surely there's no need to diss Gerber in order to praise Schwarz.

Posted by: Jonathan Versen at February 10, 2009 01:30 AM

Plus, Dennis Potter was a mad genius, and it's got killer monologues delivered by the great Michael Gambon, creepy singing scarecrows, and sex.

Posted by: Batocchio at February 10, 2009 05:33 PM