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Book Report: Supermanship

Stephen Potter’s stuff is exactly the sort of thing Your Humble Blogger likes: somewhat heavy comic stuff, larking at its own pretentiousness, maintaining a nice balance between silliness and wittiness. I’m very fond of Gamesmanship, which as everybody knows, is the art of winning without actually cheating. The later books on what has become known as One-Upmanship (Lifesmanship and One-Upmanship are also good, although not as good as the first. Supermanship is the fourth, and as the fourth, it does have the problem of all the good ideas being used up.

Still, the thing about the style is that you don’t in fact need a whole bundle of good ideas to write a hundred and thirty pages or so that is moderately entertaining. In fact, one could describe Writermanship as being the art of writing without actually having any ideas at all.

Mr. Potter (the Founder of the Institute for Lifesmanship and Gameslifemastery at Yeovil) spends some pages in this book writing about that very problem, as well as on some of the new ploys and stratagems that came up during the fifties, a very promising time for the Lifesman. There were new ways of being one-down being invented all the time, and whenever somebody is one-down, then somebody else is one-up, and you can bet that somebody is a Lifesman. Well, you can bet. Sucker.

It turns out, by the way, that there was a movie made of the work of the Institute called School for Scoundrels, with Alistair Sim playing the Founder. And it also turns out that the movie was remade recently, with William Robert Thornton, although that one seems to have fallen far from the Potter tree. There was also a BBC television series, which inexplicably isn’t on YouTube. Maybe next week.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,