GULLIVER AND THE GENTLE READER
Whatever the ancestry of the technical devices as such, the parodic intrusions of Swift’s ‘authors’ have a centrality and importance, and are made by Swift to carry a strength of personal charge, which seem to be new.6 In Sterne and Byron, and in the Norman Mailer of Advertisements for Myself, self-conscious forms of parody and self-parody openly be come a solipsistic exercise, an oblique mode of self-exploration and self-display much more radical and far-reaching than the playful postur ings of Cervantes or Burton, or even Rabelais. Compare the fact that Swift’s Tale is a satire of advertisements for oneself not only with the title of Mailer’s book, but with the fact that Mailer’s ‘advertisements’ are exactly the kind of prefatory note and solipsistic digression which Swift parodies. Mailer’s coy description of his practice and motives might almost be taken from the Tale, with its ‘admirable desire to please his readers’, its typographic self-consciousness, its acknowledg ment of the superior attraction of prefaces over the books themselves: 7
The author, taken with an admirable desire to please his readers, has also added a set of advertisements, printed in italics, which surround all of these writings with his present tastes, preferences, apologies, prides, and occasional confessions. Like many another literary fraud, the writer has been known on occasion
to read the Preface of a book instead of a book, and bearing this vice in mind, he tried to make the advertisements more readable than the rest of his pages.