Dear Dr. Boil: Is there anything written that is beyond parody? If there is, how would you know that it’s not just in poor taste? If it is beyond parody, what can you do to recover from your exposure? —Sincerely, Stumped in Steubenville.

Dear Sir or Madam: It goes without saying that parody is beyond parody, unless it is very bad parody, in which case the single joke in the metaparody will be that the parody is not funny, and that sort of joke wears thin quickly. Indeed, most kinds of humor or comedy are immune to parody for the same reason.

Parody thrives on the serious, the well-intentioned, and the self-important. Whenever a piece of writing shows that the writer had a higher opinion of it than readers do, it cries out for parody. And that is almost always the case: few indeed are the works of literature whose authors have not had a higher opinion of them than their readers had.

Of serious works, then, there are few that are beyond parody. But such works do exist, and they are invariably the works that are their own best parodies. The works of Amanda McKittrick Ros are beyond parody, for example, because no parody could ever hope to equal the sheer unlikeliness of the original.

But what other works of serious writing are beyond parody? Surely Dr. Boli’s readers will have some opinions, and together we can compile a useful list. Readers should be warned, however, not to include Dan Brown on the list. It has been conclusively proved that Dan Brown is not beyond parody.

As for the rest of your question, taste that is merely poor is always subject to parody. It is only the egregiously awful that places itself beyond parody, and the best way to recover from exposure to it is to eat chocolate.


  1. Adam says:

    Youtube comments are beyond parody.

  2. Captain DaFt says:

    Parodies can’t be parodied? The good Doctor has forgotten The Old Man’s Comforts and How He Gained Them”, which was parodied by “You Are Old Father William” which was parodied by “You are young, Kaiser William”.
    The only prerequisite for parody is that something is well known at the time, and can be parodied into a form that pokes humor at something.
    A parody about nothing:

    Of course, it’s been my experience that non-serious things shouldn’t be taken seriously, and serious things shouldn’t be taken seriously as well.

  3. I must thank Dr. Boli for introducing me to the novelist Amanda McKittrick Ros, a true literary genius, as evidenced by the opening line to IRENE IDDESLEIGH:

    “SYMPATHISE with me, indeed! Ah, no! Cast your sympathy on the chill waves of troubled waters; fling it on the oases of futurity; dash it against the rock of gossip; or, better still, allow it to remain within the false and faithless bosom of buried scorn.”

    In the few words to this series of parallelisms, Ms. Ros impressively establishes herself as a novelist of ideas, for she quickly, if subtly, takes issue with the widespread belief in progress, treating that secular hope as nothing but gossip, and scorning the troubled waters of the future’s so-called ‘oases’!

    I can scarcely restrain myself from immediately reading this novel’s second sentence, but that must await another day since the first sentence surely deserves still more intellectual rumination, for I do not think that I have yet reached bottom there.

    Moreover, such restraint from further reading serves as a moral lesson, and the longer one restrains, the greater the lesson, so I shall endeavor to make this restraint lifelong . . .

    Jeffery Hodges

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