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Thursday, July 31

Nobody loves a cynic

"Is that your house?" I turned and saw our vice president looking admiringly at my computer screen. "Boss, I wish...! Then, despite author Rick Bayan's claim, I probably would love a cynic the way his dog sighs in tolerance of his acid at life." I smiled at the veteran MBA as he exited the office.

From the first moments I skimmed The Cynic's Dictionary I thought it was too interesting to gather dust in a flea market pile. I took it home and carried it in my purse at work. Here's a list I made to remember this book by -

1.  First off, Rick Bayan assures would-be readers that he is not a cynic of the hard-boiled school, but actually a disgruntled idealist.  The cynicism that crackles throughout his dictionary is a 'romantic's disgust over wanting life to be a melodious waltz but times have given us rap instead.'

2.  The Cynic's Dictionary contains bile, spleen and other dark, unwholesome humors

3.  The book targets an age that -
  • scoffs at virtue and nobility
  • makes culture heroes out of strutting rock musicians
  • prizes the ugly and obscure in art
  • turns men and women into carping adversaries, and bright collegians into undifferentiated corporate bureaucrats
  • rewards greed and glibness
  • tells us through the dictates of "political correctness" what we are allowed to think and say
4.  A word on the book's predecessor, The Devil's Dictionary
  • has been brilliantly warming the chilly hearts of cynics, and naturally an underappreciated book at least among mainstream readers and critics
  • author Ambrose Bierce took on all of humankind as the target of his wrath 
5.  The author's (Bayan) intentions are
  • to snipe at the gods and toss brickbats at human nature
  • take up arms against sacred cows, unholy terrors and irritating little gremlins of the modern era
6.  What the author tried to accomplish
  •  to distill the essence of the offending phenomenon into a few well-chosen words, and to give those words an ironic twist that will leave you chortling inwardly with satisfaction
7.  The author maligns
  • endless arrays of special-interest factions
  • corporate henchmen
  • jargoneering professionals
  • teenage barbarians
  • media tastemakers
  • smug connoisseurs
  • mobsters
  • new-age mountebanks
  • turncoat humanities professors
  • politically ostentatious celebrities
8.  Again and again the author:
  • goads the obnoxious
  • defends the defenseless
  • attacks bullies from the incomparable safety of the printed page
9.  The author amuses himself by:
  • skewering ghoulies, ghosties and long-legged betes noires
  • playing with words after a long day's work
  • aiming a righteous barb at something vile
10.  If anything in the book offends you - please bear in mind that Bayan crafted his definitions 'the way a caricaturists sketches a face with an eye to the possibilities for whimsical exaggerations.'

11.  If you wonder how could the author be so unrelentingly negative, Bayan assures you that The Cynic's Dictionary is 'as much an elegy for old-fashioned virtues and pleasures as it is a diatribe against decadence'.

12.  Bayan's word to other aspiring scribes, daunted perhaps by the slim odds of finding a sympathetic publisher, "Write it anyway!"

13. And here are samples on which I started chuckling at first and then burst out laughing
  • cynic: an idealist whose rose-colored glasses have been removed, snapped in two and stomped into the ground, immediately improving his vision
  • denial: how an optimist keeps from becoming a pessimist
  • author: a writer with connections in the publishing industry
  • academia (my world, lol): a chronic disease characterized by a compulsion to write lengthy specialized treatises in unintelligible vocabularies for the purpose of rising in the esteem of those similarly afflicted 

Thanks to our hosts: Blue Monday  * Thursday Thirteen


  1. Sounds like it would be a fun book to page through. My T13: Concerts on the Square

  2. When I was a young woman I would have been all over this. I'm much less jaded now and think I'll pass. Isn't that ironic?

  3. I think "write it anyway" is the best advice. Period.

  4. Hi Hazel,

    Oh, I can tell that you're going to enjoy this book for quite a long time!

    I do love those blue hydrangeas. Thanks for sharing.

    Have a Happy Blue Monday!

  5. I know a few I'd love to give this to as a gift. LOL Happy TT!


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