David Haan: Irony

David Haan: Irony


Rumormongers have hypocritically insinuated that I make use of cheap irony. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I employ only the finest quality of irony, procured at great expense, its like not to be had discounted. In fact, I do not entrust supply to outside provisioners, but participate at every stage of manufacture, from the selection of raw material (unalloyed, never scrap) through its refinement—forged under sublime pressure, even tempered, under controlled heat, by a process of my own invention. Despite all due precaution, irony can become corrupted, so the results of all this effort may well never see the light of day. Only the most resilient irony, without discernable imperfection, is suitable to any proper craft.

Nor do I use it sparingly. To be effective, irony must be thickly applied, preferably in many layers, and meticulously worked in to its foundation so as to become integral to the final product. Those who speak of corrosive irony are really attesting to deficiencies of material or workmanship. It’s often forgotten that the first function of irony is literally to protect the underlying matter. This has been obscured by the success of irony as a decorative element.

The importance of presentation must not be denied. Raw irony is unattractive—dull and base, it sends the wrong message. This should not be confused with the pure, simple affect achieved by the so-called Socratic method, made to seem rudimentary through its minimal, flat finish. Irony can also be polished to a high gloss, though usually augmented by a thin adherent coating to maintain its surface integrity.

For more ornate treatments, the devil is in the details: to assume a pleasing shape, the substance must be respected, even as it is moulded, but irony is no less versatile for all that. Whether chiseled to a fine edge or otherwise carved, or etched with acid, it readily accepts a variety of designs. But the key to superior irony is texture. Smooth, stippled, sawtoothed, or scored, it is essential to compensate for the inconstant densities of the material, lest the result leave a motley or clouded appearance. Superficial asperity can be enhanced with a dry wash, or light varnish—heavier treatments tend to mask the desired impression.

The display setting should be chosen to show the finished product to its best advantage. Shifts in perspective and lighting angles can produce dramatic effects in the denouement. Understatement may have its virtues, but flirts with the possibility that finer aspects of the irony will be overshadowed. Hidden irony may elicit a shock of recognition, but this is transient, and better saved for those times that occasion truly demands.

Whatever the current fashion may be, mock irony is to be assiduously avoided as a breach of taste. Its defects become apparent even under cursory examination, to say nothing of the sceptical eye of the connoisseur. It deceives no one.

I trust that this demonstrates my approach to irony is not to be gainsaid. I take irony very seriously indeed. And when I say that, I mean it.


–by David Haan


Copyleft 2008, by David Haan and Spinozablue. Used by Permission.

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