Thursday, April 23, 2020

Enthusiasts and Hardheads

Between the enthusiasts and the hardheads who dismiss them, I love the enthusiasts but stand with the hardheads.

– John Crowley


G. Verloren said...

I'm not familiar with this usage of "hardhead".

Obviously it's not the marine catfish usage I know from American English, nor the British usage referring to knapweed.

I assume it's likely related to "hard headed", even though I've never encountered a noun form of that phrase before. Merriam-Webster confirms this suspicion, equating it with the similar term "blockhead".

But that still leaves me confused. I don't know Crowley, and I don't have proper context, and it doesn't seem likely that he's saying he stands with "blockheads" and idiots, so I'm left to dig deeper for more information.

That doesn't help. Google Books supplies me with the text the quote is taken from, but I'm still at a loss.

It's part of a piece of short fiction, and comes from a section in which the narrator listens to an actor giving a lecture of sorts, who specifically remarks that "nothing needs to be the way you've always thought it has to be".

The line is just one part of a larger response to that statement:

I didn't really care. I was as interested in these theories as I was in flying saucers, or the guilt of the Rosenbergs, or the miracles at Lourdes. I thought the world was one way, and it was obvious what that way was, and people who struggled to alter it had reasons particular to them, a kind of sublime dissatisfaction that had nothing to do with what is in fact the case. I still think so, most of the time. Between the enthusiast and the hardheads who dismiss them, I love the enthusiasts and stand with the hardheads. I don't think Harriet likes this about me, all in all. She thinks that nothing needs to be the way that power insists it is. It's part of being a Free Spirit.

This leaves me confused. Is the character supposed to be saying that he stands with idiots and blockheads? Or am I missing some other usage that changes the message?

From my brief skim, it feels to me like the author intends the reader to not agree with the narrator - but is that just my biases producing that interpretation? Or is Crowley actually having the narrator claim to side with "hardheads" as a means to demonstrate that he's wrongheaded - perhaps akin to people willingly labeling themselves Deploreables?

John said...

I think hardheads means skeptics.