More Zorn

by John Holbo on August 25, 2016

There’s a class of Amazon negative reviews. Not vicious or trolling. These are honest, often terse reports. I will not foreshadow my Kierkegaardian theme by calling them ‘preambles from the heart’. They are fired off from the front, where the battle is forever being fought and lost against the relentless disappointment of erroneous expectation. I’m thinking of purchasing In Another Light: Danish Painting In the 19th Century. But what’s this I read? “Not what I expected.wanted more Zorn!”

Not the height of comedy. Still, pardon me if I find funny the notion that, if I expect to find Swedish painting in a book of Danish painting, I ought to find it. What’s the alternative?

I’m buying this book in no especial expectation of Zorn, but because I am acquainting myself with the culture of Golden Age Denmark, the better to teach Kierkegaard. (If the book should prove useless, for Kierkegaardian pedagogy purposes, I shall leave no accusatory review to that effect.) So the Kierkegaardian solution to this problem occurs to me! To counterbalance the understandable frustration caused to authors by such 1-star reviews, we need to cultivate a class of ‘reviewers of resignation’ and – even more so! – ‘reviewers of faith’! The former, when they realize that books of Danish painting do not contain Swedish painting, make ‘the movement of infinity’. They give up faith in ‘more Zorn’ in this book. Their consumerist gaze at books of Danish painting is ‘forever clouded’ in the Zorn department, unfocusing into the distance. To them, this world becomes a place in which books of Danish painting do not contain Swedish painting. Thus they do not trouble to leave a review at all. So that doesn’t hurt – but it doesn’t help. So we turn to the ‘reviewer of faith’. This one – let’s call him Abe – receives the book from Amazon, looks through, expecting Zorn, then makes ‘the movement of infinity’. Yet, strange to say, Abe does not abandon expectation that he shall get ‘more Zorn’ in this finite book. On the strength of the absurd. He gives the book a rating of 5-stars for its satisfactory inclusion of works of Zorn, like a dancer returning to earth after a high leap. But this reviewer pens no review. (If he were to write a review, we could not understand it. Who can understand this reviewer?)

I admit. Sometimes I get a ‘more Zorn!’ feeling towards the world, as if it were a big book of Danish painting.



reason 08.25.16 at 7:35 am

As a German resident, I thought this was referring to the German word “Zorn”, which could have also been apposite. Is this possibly just a misunderstanding?


John Holbo 08.25.16 at 7:41 am

As a German reader that did occur to me. That added extra semantic overtones to my appreciation of the text of the review. But I suspect this reviewer simply wanted more Anders Zorn. Lots of people like Zorn! (I do!)


robotslave 08.25.16 at 8:42 am

Oh come now, it’s a perfectly understandable mistake, and I’m sure Amazon’s woeful recommendation engine is at least as much to blame as the reviewer.

I mean I think we can all agree that In Another Light is an entirely plausible title for further treatment of material explored in Sacred Visions and The Painted Bird and Dreamachines and The True Discoveries of Witches and Demons and Torture Garden.


Bill Benzon 08.25.16 at 11:14 am


Timothy Burke 08.25.16 at 11:46 am

Perhaps this is what the reviewer was looking for.


brett w. 08.25.16 at 12:40 pm

This is the funniest things I’ve read . I’m going to be annoying my friends with ‘More Zorn!’ for a while. It’s like a Kierkegaardian whoopie cushion.


John Holbo 08.25.16 at 1:15 pm

That looks great!


Big Earl Magillicuddy 08.25.16 at 1:45 pm

Zorn, finding being, embracing nothingness, and having neat dance to boot! Super.


Peter Hovde 08.25.16 at 1:48 pm

I thought “Someone wanted more ‘adjective that means ‘destroyed” in rabbit language?” OK, not really. But that will always be my default association.


Glen Tomkins 08.25.16 at 3:22 pm

Yes, as comments 1 and 2 go into, this reader was looking for der Zorn Gottes, and found too little of it in the art book. I know the feeling.


Glen Tomkins 08.25.16 at 3:23 pm

Also Gottverdammtnis, way too little of that to be found in our culture.


Glen Tomkins 08.25.16 at 3:24 pm

Also, Gottverlorenheit.


Glen Tomkins 08.25.16 at 3:29 pm

And no, this is nothing peculiar to German culture. By the end of the Hundred Year’s War, after having to listen to the conversation of English soldiers in their wanderings about their country, the common term in French for the English became les goddams, apparently because that word was 99% of the speech output of English soldiers.


Dave Maier 08.25.16 at 3:36 pm

I too feel the lack of der Zorn Gottes in Danish painting, but to be fair there isn’t any John Zorn either.

Also, John, I think you need to lay off the Kierkegaard for a while — it’s doing weird things to your head.


Jeff Nesin 08.25.16 at 3:49 pm

It’s actually a lovely book and Asger Zorn ain’t in it for good cause: he was a 20th century Danish painter, a COBRA (no, not a cartoon character) Group founder.


nnyhav 08.25.16 at 3:58 pm

and here my first thought was of Zorn’s lemma (as applied to maximal negative reviews), and then of his grandson’s coverage of Fermat’s Last Theorem


SusanC 08.25.16 at 4:16 pm

The Kierkegaard parody may perhaps seem a little odd to people who aren’t already into K.

My first thought was of Max August Zorn, but I shall have to reconcile myself to the lack of set theory in a book on Danish painting. Oh, Anders Zorn … that makes much more sense, even if he was Swedish.


SusanC 08.25.16 at 4:18 pm

(My post overlapped with nnyhav’s, who clearly went through the same thought process).


SusanC 08.25.16 at 4:28 pm

The Internet is a terrible thing; I am now imaging an Danish impressionist who used packing tape to create works in the style of John Singer Sargent.


Just Some Commenter 08.25.16 at 6:42 pm


Paul Davis 08.25.16 at 8:11 pm

When he’s on, it isn’t hard to want more John Zorn.


Greg Hays 08.25.16 at 10:53 pm

Aguirrekegaard: Der Zorn Gottes


ZM 08.25.16 at 11:14 pm

“I admit. Sometimes I get a ‘more Zorn!’ feeling towards the world, as if it were a big book of Danish painting.”

I am more like “why is there so much Zorn in this book of Danish painting!” That’s my life though.


Peter Hovde 08.26.16 at 1:54 am

Greg Hays already on the reference, but any excuse to watch this:


John Holbo 08.26.16 at 2:30 am

I’m starting to get “Anders Zorn” served up in ads when I visit Facebook. So Mark Zuckerberg, who has been looking over my shoulder and reading this post, clearly thinks I’m right it’s a Swedish painting thing, not a new Phil Lord cartoon or a German word or Gorn from Star Trek or Aguirre or any of that other nonsense. Zuckerberg is a billionaire so he knows what’s what.


dr ngo 08.26.16 at 3:49 am

I feel like such a rube in flashing on former Seahawk quarterback (and Saints coach) Jim Zorn


Phil Koop 08.26.16 at 1:16 pm

@nnyhav, SusanC,

So how would you translate the classic set theory joke to this situation? Maybe “Anders is obviously Danish, Leonard is obviously not, and Zorn … who knows?”


Kiwanda 08.26.16 at 1:38 pm

I’m disappointed that “Zorn” is not related to “cowbell”.


Josh 08.27.16 at 3:05 am

Like references to David Bowie, this makes me sad. We could have used ten years more of (Pete) Zorn.


tony lynch 08.27.16 at 10:44 am

Zorn sheep


Squirrel Nutkin 08.28.16 at 3:09 am

More Zorn? I want more cowbell!


Alan White 08.28.16 at 5:06 am

Tonight I listened to Blue October’s Hate Me:

which I have used in Phil/Rel classes to relate students to SK’s ploy to break his engagement to Regine. A bit dated now but FWIW.


Mike Schilling 08.28.16 at 2:10 pm

It makes perfect sense for the reader to ask for more Zorn, since it’s equivalent to choice.


nnyhav 08.29.16 at 5:26 am

How about Johannes Zorn? contemporary of Kierkegaard and author of Aristophanes in seinem Verhältnis du Socrates, which overlaps Kierkegaard’s The Concept of Irony Thesis VII (though the latter may prepostmodernly apply to itself, as, in “The Battle between the Old and the New Soap-Cellars” Kierkegaard did for Hegel what Aristophanes did for Socrates in The Clouds) (see Eric Ziolkowski for detail: this post knocked his paper off the feeling lucky button for “Kierkegaard Zorn”)

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