Ombudsmandry Throughout the Ages
by Frank Knarf
St. Albans Press, 341 pp., $55.00
In Frank Knarf’s bracingly inconsequential book Ombudsmandry Throughout the Ages, within the span of 3 pages the author tells us everything we’d ever want to know about ombudsmen. How he manged to concoct another 338 pages on such an esoteric topic I’ll never know. This is not an overly long book. Crime and Punishment was a long book. This book makes eternity look like a coffee break. To read beyond page 10 is a crime. To read beyond page 20 is both a crime and punishment. At least the middle section has centerfolds of historic figures like Attila the Ombudsman, Vlad the Ompaler and Donny and Marie Ombuds. Ombudsmandry Throughout the Ages is a tough read. In controlled clinical trials, professional scholars have attempted to “binge-read” the book and in all cases have suffered spontaneous narcolepsy or herniated cerebrums. It simply can’t be read at a sitting and I’m at a loss as to why St. Albans Press decided to publish it instead of the more titillating Hunter-Douglass corporately-sponsored catalog titled 50 Shades of Shades.
But let me stepdown from rant mode and shift into a more honest appraisal of a fake book the NY Review of Books is paying me beaucoup bitcoins to review (at least you know my motivation). This is a book whose time has not come and never will – kinda like the Metric System in America. I’m sure many earnest people with benign skin tags contributed in good faith to this book. But in the end it remains a publication only an ombudphile could get excited about. St. Albans Press has target-marketed this volume to watchers of The Big Bang Theory. How else do you explain the publication of a book that traces the origin, evolution and current state of ombudsmandry – which I didn’t even know was a thing.
In the annals of semi-official do-gooders, ombudspersons rank right up there with Notary Publics and Good Samaritans. Mr. Knarf actual defines an ombudsman as a person who investigates and attempts to remedy complaints between 2 parties – but is not a pimp. This is a homely book only an ombudsman’s mother could love. Attempts have been made to make an ombudsman more hip or current by referring to them as an ombudsdude or simply the omguy.
Mr. Knarf’s motivation for writing the book appears in the tell-all appendix dangling not far from the glossary:
This book represents my privileged window on the world of ombudry. When I was a little boy my mother was my chief ombudsman or mombudsman as I called her. I reveled in the bosom of my mombudsman. And by the age of 19 I stopped breast-feeding and left the farm for greener, or at least milkier pastures. My analyst said I suffered from OOC (Oedipal Ombudsman Complex) which I’m told is more harmful to say than to actually suffer from. I therefore dedicate this book to adult Oedipal Ombudsman Complex sufferers everywhere; and the women who love them.
Let’s All Take a Deep Breath, Shall We?
I think it’s important to note that Mr. Knarf is a fictional character whose fake book is being reviewed by a make-believe reviewer in a story written by me. And by me I mean me – the only real voice in the whole story. This story does continue and rather than make the effort in writing it, I’m just going to summarize it for you:
- Ombudsmandry is not about sexual fascination. It’ i a noble practice comprising mediation, representation and advocacy. It’s about resolving disputes before they devolve into irreconcilable issues.
- If Hitler (why do we always bring up Hitler when a more illustrative and less inflammatory example will do?) had a deft and wily ombudsman to serve him instead of that Nordic High-Priest murderer Himmler, the entire WWII era might appear in the history pages as: Germany Gets Real Efficient.
- Interest in Ombudsmandry is a preexisting condition and hence covered by most insurances.
- And finally, if you’re getting orthodontia work and you die midway through the treatments, you can still have the orthodontist finish the job. This also holds true for massages – unless rigor mortis sets in.
I want to thank everyone for coming today. It’s been a real pleasure exercising my brain while you watched. This is where my exhibitionism and your voyeurism form a synergy unparalleled in Western Letters – however they can become parallel in Eastern Letters depending on the alphabet used and the creativity of the writer. Be that as it may (even though it’s July) in the end who else is going to advocate for me if I don’t? Oh wait, that would be an ombudsman. And now we’ve come full circle and achieved geometric closure on something that seemed so open-ended. Thank you Western Letters.