On Ranting

Karthik’s last post got me thinking. Ranting is an honored literary tradition & masters across centuries have engaged in it with highly entertaining & edifying results. Here’s a short list of the ranters I love:

James Thurber
An undisputed master of art (in my opinion). One of his funniest is ‘File & Forget’ – a collection of his correspondence with his publishers over a mix up involving among other things a number of copies of the book “Grandma Was a Nudist”. Strictly NOT for office reading, or any place else where you don’t want to fall off your chair & roll around the floor laughing.

(Unfortunately, I do not recall the name of the piece that is my personal favorite. It features Thurber, his wife & a confused lady at a party, who all get increasingly drunk as the evening proceeds, with hilarious results. The lady accuses Thurber of having written something he has not, and he tries very hard to disabuse her, but…Well, am making an absolute hash of it here – but if someone remembers the title or the collection in which this appears, please let me know.)

David Sedaris
Sedaris’s wit lacks the rapier sharpness of Thurber’s. But his rants are equally hilarious. From his experience working as an Elf at Macy’s (or was it Bloomingdale’s?) in Santaland Diaries to his adventures in France, Sedaris is also NOT for office reading. Go here for sample sound bites. The author’s dead pan voice makes it all funnier.

But when it comes to rants, the Bard wins. As he does, am sure, in just about everything under the sun… My all time favorite rant bar none is:

To bait fish withal: if it feed nothing else, it will feed my revenge. He hath disgraced me, and hindered me half a million, laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies; and what’s his reason? I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge! If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge! The villainy you teach me I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction.*

What wouldn’t I give to be able to rant like this…

* The Merchant of Venice, Act III, Scene 1

Let’s make this an open tag. Favorite ranters & their rants, movies included.

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2 comments so far

  1. Manoj on

    I thought Al Pacino did justice to that rant in the movie. Every word spat out in characteristic Pacino style.
    Favorite ranters, eh? I can only think of the stand-up comedians I watch. Dennis Miller will not make the list. Nor will George Carlin. Maybe Lewis Black? I’ll have to think about this. 🙂

  2. Falstaff on

    Philip Roth. Read: the Breast, Anatomy Lesson, Zuckerman Unbound, Great American Novel – rants galore.

    Ginsberg’s Howl. Page upon page of sheer visionary rage.

    Shelley. Just read some of his more political poems (The Masque of Anarchy, etc.)

    Oh, and on Shakespeare – don’t forget Lear.


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