The Hypocrite Reader publishes reportage, criticism, history, sociology, theory, creative non-fiction, translations, manifestos, leaks, analysis, popular science, synthesis, wedding announcements, and Viking-themed erotica. Just because something doesn’t fit into any of those categories doesn’t mean we won’t publish it.
We are currently assembling our May issue, “Faces and Masks.” Please submit article prospectuses for the latter to email@example.com by May 22nd. A prospectus is a paragraph or so explaining what your article is going to be and giving an approximate word count. If we don’t already know each other, it would be helpful to have a few sentences about you, including any areas of expertise and previous writing experience, but no need for a full cover letter or anything like that. At the Hypocrite Reader we practice activist editing and pay our writers only in sincere appreciation. Please see our Writer’s Guide for more information.
THEME DESCRIPTION: Trauma and Laughter
When I was 12, my friends and I thought the following joke was extremely funny:
A: What's worse than biting into an apple and finding half a worm?
B: I don't know, what?
A: The Holocaust.
I know, I know, it's not funny. You really had to be there, and by there I mean 12. But this joke retains a place in my heart because it's so blunt, so simple--it's almost a parody of the joke-structure. You set up an expectation (the arresting grossness of having eaten half a worm, and you're thinking hm, apples, apples...), lull your interlocutor into a false sense of security, and then--bam!--betray it, as suddenly and completely as you can. A moment of shock and incomprehension, then laughter, because what can you say?
Would it be going too far to say that there's something "traumatic" in the joke? To answer this question we'd have to know what we mean by trauma, and "trauma" is one of those concepts whose very ubiquity makes it hard to get a handle on. It's so much a part of the folk psychology of our era--omnipresent in discussions of sex and death (war, child abuse, rape) but also of history (slavery, the Holocaust)--and like so much of our folk psychology it's part of the disavowed Freudian legacy, unmoored from its theory of origin. Trauma as we use it today participates in the temporal paradox of the Freudian unconscious: the unconscious is at once the sudden (that which emerges unpredictably in the gaps and lapses of ordinary speech, and which is gone and forgotten just as soon) and the eternal (the unconscious never changes, never grows up, never gives up--it knows nothing of negation and just as little of time). The traumatic event is so sudden, so unprecedented and unexpected and unrepeatable, that it becomes paradoxically permanent--as it bore no relation to the past, it blocks all relation to the future. A soldier with PTSD can never come home, he's always still at war. The traumatic situation doesn't leave a scar, it just keeps bleeding.
Loosely, then: both trauma and the joke partake of the sudden, the break. Maybe that's why traumatic subjects are such a fruitful source of jokes--not only the famous and offensive traumas (rape, the Holocaust) but the more universal traumas of aging, divorce, death, sex and so forth. Psychologists tell us that traumatized people feel compelled to repeat their traumas, in fantasy or in fact, to try to master the incomprehensibility of the event; joking about trauma might function similarly. With this difference: jokes make a pleasure of the sudden and find the comedy in non-mastery. If trauma cuts off access to the future, jokes celebrate the constant arrival of the new, which, like the first joke about the latest disaster, always comes "too soon."
Thanks for asking! The Hypocrite Reader has recently begun accepting donations to help fund a print anthology of articles from our first year of publication. If you’d like to help support the project, you can contribute through our PayPal account, which is linked to the email address firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to contribute through means other than PayPal, get in touch and we’ll be happy to work something out. All donations will go towards the publication of the anthology and nothing else. Note that we are not registered as a nonprofit and donations are, unfortunately, not tax-deductible.
We no longer publish wedding announcements.