re Author, author: Long live the Bagatelle!

From Saturday’s Guardian I learnt that frivolity and seriousness were ‘the same thing’.

The same thing.

It was repeated like that. And it occurred to me: Adam Thirlwell can only say this with the expectation it will interest us because the two things are what they are, and not each other; or because we assume so. But if he is right — if he persuades us — the statement should become tautologous, and boring. We should no longer be able to note frivolity in seriousness or seriousness in frivolity because, after all, they are one.

At least, should his publishers call for a second edition of his book, I advised Peter McDonald so. In light of the arguments of Saturday’s Guardian, I thought, he may want to retool the whole sale.

Except: there are questions. Is one seriousness, for example, the same as another? If frivolity and seriousness are the same thing, what is that thing?

The article does not entertain them, though, because to the writer they are unimportant. They make the mistake of treating Thirlwell’s refrain as literally true: a mistake because as soon as which point is arrived at, the refrain ceases to mean Thirlwell’s meaning. Its meaning, and function, is really to indicate in metaphor the writer’s cast of mind, under which seriousness is frivolous, and frivolity serious. But the article only says what it says intelligibly because we do not share this cast of mind: because the writer is literally wrong.