One thing can be said for sure about The Clan of the Flapdragon and Other Adventures in Etymology, by B.M.W. Schrapnel, Ph.D.: There has never been another book quite like it. It almost defies description. It's part serious etymology, part semi-serious satire and part, as mentioned on the book jacket, "dementia."
Technically the book is a collection of thirty short pieces on a wild variety of topics. Three titles give you an idea of the range of Schrapnel's interests: "The Protean Obscenity and His Sister," "Romanticism Now and Then," and "Ted Nugent Must Die!"
Almost every article is followed by letters purportedly written in response to the piece in question. This feature is called "Cleopatra's Basket," and I suspect many readers, like me, will find it the funniest part of the book. It's filled with classic spoofs of the kind of missives sent in by readers of serious literary magazines.
It's hard to pin down exactly where Dr. Schrapnel stands on the numerous political, artistic, academic and cultural issues he rants about. He's an equal opportunity satirist, as every good satirist should be. For instance, he spends a lot of time skewering people like the "slime-cake politician who's on the secret payroll of big industry and rampant development at any cost." But just when you have him pegged as a tree-hugger, you come across something like, "Most environmental organizations are a crock of wormy fools who get off watching itsy-bitsy birds, or identifying pukey-colored butterflies, while the habitat near and around them goes down at a more methodical and embarrassing rate every year, sort of like your Buffalo Bills at the Super Bowl."
Or take feminism. The ultras of that persuasion come in for their share of lampooning, but even the curmudgeonly Dr. Schrapnel must have his Alan Alda side, for in one of the letters in Cleopatra's Basket a California member of NOW writes: "The Feminist Community commends you for an essay finally devoid of any slurs aimed at us. This doesn't mean that we have removed your name from our top ten list of degenerate chauvinist swine--once a pig, always a pig--but we do encourage you to continue on an artistic path that has no cultural or spiritual potholes."
I hope he stays right where he is, wherever that is.