The Grasshopper

I’ve just read Bernard Suits’s The Grasshopper. I first heard of it and realized I wanted to read it a month or so ago when reading a piece by Simon Blackburn for the next issue (the tenth anniversary issue, number 40) of The Philosophers’ Magazine. In answer to a question about ‘the most under-appreciated philosopher of the last ten years’ he said ‘Inevitably, it is probably someone of whom I have not heard. But a little known and now dead philosopher called Bernard Suits wrote an absolutely wonderful book on the notion of games and play, called The Grasshopper, published by Broadview Press. I do not think I have ever met more than one person who has heard of it.’ Really, thought I, making a note of it. Then just a few weeks later Nigel Warburton wrote a review at ‘Virtual Philosopher’ of a new edition, and then Tom Hurka who wrote an introduction to the new edition commented, and then Bernard Suits’s widow Cheryl commented. The Grasshopper is being hauled out of obscurity, and a good thing too. It’s a terrific book.

Nigel has a later post about it here.

I had one very interesting, what to call it, there’s no word for this – thought-linkup, while reading. Page 39 in the University of Toronto 1978 edition:

…in anything but a game the gratuitous introduction of unnecessary obstacles to the achievement of an end is regarded as a decidedly irrational thing to do, whereas in game it appears to be an absolutely essential thing to do.

Not quite, I thought; there’s something else, I thought; what is it…oh, poetry. That description works beautifully for poetry – and I couldn’t think of anything else that fit as well. So poetry turns out to be closely related to golf and squash and chess and bridge. Who knew? Poetry that has unnecessary obstacles, that is, not free verse. I no sooner had that thought than I remembered – with a considerable feeling of delight, I must say – that Robert Frost disliked free verse: he said it was like playing tennis with the net down. Well there you go. Good eh?

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