One Hand Jerking: by Paul Krassner, 318 pgs. By Aphid

Dec 04, 2006

When asked about his predilection towards all things evil and satanic, The Supersuckers’ Eddie Spaghetti used to say that he was in Beelzebub’s camp simply because the devil has all the cool graphics. In a similar vein, I’ve always found myself drawn towards the pranksters and provocateurs in life because they just have always seemed to me to be the people having the most fun. Plain and simple. And as prankster/provocateur pedigrees go, it’s hard to beat that of Paul Krassner. This guy is like the Dick Butkus of Team Anti-Establishment and his helmet-first satirical spearing of the hypocrites and the stuffed shirts has probably caused more snot bubbles to pop out of noses than ol’ number 51 caused in his wildest, most bloodthirsty gridiron dreams. Krassner’s tenure with both The Realist and the yippies—the clowns who ran a pig for president and created a near riot at the stock exchange by dumping dollar bills down on the money-crazed suits below—alone is enough to guarantee his craggy mug a spot on the Mount Rushmore of Counter Culture Agitators, right along side such luminaries as Guy Debord and Abbie Hoffman. But unlike those two, Krassner’s still alive and kicking and stirring up shit; and unlike yippie-cum-yuppie-cum-suckwad, Jerry Rubin, he hasn’t sold out and become a shameless, soulless douchebag. Krassner’s remarkable staying power may well be simply due to his intuitive understanding of the evolutionary imperative of “subverting the dominant paradigm.” That, and the fact that he’s always had a talent for skewering the sacred and bloated cows in a way that is both funny as hell and zen-ishly instructive. Now an AARP card-carrying seventy-two year old—and still full of piss and vinegar—he seems to be settling comfortably into his role as “investigative satirist,” and judging by One Hand Jerking, his goal is to unsettle as many people as humanly possible. This is, after all, a man whose credo is “irreverence is our only sacred cow.” The title of the book, of course, is a slight twist on the famous zen koan of Hakuin that asks, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” While it’s never good to be over analytical with koans, I would say that the title here has as much to do with jerking people’s chains, as it does with the more obvious masturbation/hand job connotations that spring to mind. In One Hand Jerking, the chains of many Gilded Establishment Asses get jerked and, as one might expect, many of them are the flag-sucking puffer fish of conservative, right wing America. But, as you wind your way through the essays and articles in this book, attempting to sort out apparent parody from bizarre reality, you begin to realize that one of the chains being jerked is your own. And as far as I’m concerned, any book or movie or work of art that can kick the legs of certainty out from under you and make you laugh at the same time is a book well worth reading. As Krassner’s old partner in Thought Crime and fellow yippie, Abbie Hoffman used to say, “You have to laugh with us, at us, and take us seriously all at the same time or you’re going to miss the point.” One Hand Clapping is an intoxicating admixture of smelling salts and laughing gas and we are lucky Krassner is still around to whip us up such potions. And we’ll all be so lucky if, at his age, any of us are half the gadfly that he is now. –Aphid Peewit (Seven Stories, 140 Watts St., NY, NY 10013)