Monday, October 18, 2004

Humor is where the heart is

I've been thinking a lot about humor lately. It started a month or so ago when I read the new McSweeney's anthology, Created In Darkness, which collects humor shorts from a variety of McSweeney regulars. The intro by Dave Eggers talked about how he wanted McSweeney's in general, and this book in particular, to bridge that percieved gap between humorist and literary writers. Saturday I heard a good episode of Studio 360 on the radio. Along with the guest Amy Poehler of Saturday Night Live, host Kurt Anderson talked about satire, parody and humor in the today's world.

Yesterday I started the newest book by David Sedaris, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. And while there are many moments that are funny I doubt I will ever read it again. They're all fun, anecdotal stories that he manages to tie together with a pretty little bow at the end, but not a whole lot to them as far as depth. Maybe I'm not playing fair with Sedaris since the Maggie Dubris book I just finished was so full of meaning. But while I can think of countless literary writers who work humor into their writing I'm having trouble thinking of someone who's main goal is to be funny and manages to be an exemplary writer. I know there must be at least a few, but who am I missing?



LadyLitBlitzin said...

Hmm, that's an interesting question. I think I find some stuff amusing in a clever way, entertaining, but not laugh out loud funny. I read a few books by Chuck Pahluniak a few years ago -- Fight Club, Lullaby and Survivor -- and actually those were funny in a sort of very wrong way (and probably means I'm a little wrong, but hey, they definitely weren't your standard fare -- although the first one I read blew my doors off in terms of just being DIFFERENT). I guess that's dark satire though.

I recently read a couple issues of "Gargoyle" that I blogged about -- and being from around DC you've probably read or heard of them -- and found a lot of the stories amusing/funny. Like there was a story "Godzilla vs. Alice Cooper," I believe was the title.

Hmm... that is a really tough question, all in all...

Hebdomeros said...

Oh yes, I know Gargoyle. I'm a big fan of that mag in general. That Godzilla piece is real hoot.

I'm not exactly sure what I'm asking, which is probably part of the problem. I guess I'm trying to think of writers who write primarily humorous pieces, but still manage to tackle big issues, themes, etc. The ones who keep popping into my head now are Laurence Sterne with Tristam Shandy, and Jonathan Swift with just about anything. But when I'm thinking of contemporary writers, I can't think of any.

LadyLitBlitzin said...

I'm so glad that you know Gargoyle! Awesome. I blogged about them a lot in the past. Because the magazine just so totally blew me away. So it's good to rave to someone who has read them as opposed to just raving into the void! :)

Hebdomeros said...

I always, always, always look for old Gargoyle issues when I go to a used book store or fair. I somtimes have good luck. I'm amazed by how consistent the quality of it is over all these years. I really love the mix of things that come in each issue. Big names, new writers, mainstream and really weird pieces all under the same cover. The upcoming issue looks really good, too. Just wish they'd put a release date up on their website!