25 May 2007

Two Verbal Prose Arrangements

Briefly, two pieces of required reading for the weekend:

  • This essay on the comic novel—and its importance given the recent proclivity toward High Seriousness in lit—is very good & worth further consideration. I have always thought that if I had a novel in me—I don’t— it’d have to be a comic one: who could tolerate all the angsty navel-gazing? CanLit has quite enough of that, thank you very much.

  • This discussion on writing well is very, very funny and well-worth the read. It should also go without saying that I agree with just about every word of it. (Slight follow-up: Andrew Sullivan provides a noteworthy point which I offer as an addendum in this regard.)

Not too much to report from these quarters, save that it’s hotter than Hell.

Of a related nature, since rediscovering that old notebook I mentioned, I found a few more things lurking rattily about like Claudius behind an arras. Alas, I wish I hadn't. It's a particular type of torture reading one's own tortuous scribblings from days gone mercifully by. There were papers on Frye, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Harold Pinter and D.H. Lawrence, the undergraduate ones of which were grotesquely naive, while the graduate ones were grotesquely dishonest from trying to mollify the soft bigotry of theoretical expectations. (They all got A's of one form or another, though Ray Charles only knows how or why.) There were various attempts at verse, all rightly aborted and lined-through like security briefings. And there were bits & pieces of thought from and for classes, all scattered and probative, more aphoristic than refined-- and almost entirely unusable by my estimation. Some writers look back on their back-pieces with embarrassment and even regret. I do so with a dustman's sense of waste: so much stuff, none of it worth keeping, and not a little bit of shame that there's nothing to be salvaged from the cartage. John Lee Hooker was right: Don't look back.... Ever.

(And yes, I ended with navel-gazing. I. Am. Soooooo. Canadian.)

4 comments:

sylvia said...

Both (all three) very good. I particularly liked Gough on the novel, because I also feel, and have long felt, that the genius of comedy is consistently undervalued in creative endeavours. Which is a pity for all sorts of reasons, but (in my view) especially because it tends to push specific creative geniuses, who do their brilliant best at comedy of various sorts but -- like anyone -- yearn to be respected for their work as, in our world, comedians rarely are, towards a mode in which they are uncomfortable, or awkward, or worse.

Of course, it's also true that what passes for comedy these days is very often just bottom-of-the-barrel toilet humour. But I think if more people were taken more seriously for writing (or otherwise creating) intelligent comedy, that would be less true.

I am now sorely tempted to turn the discussion to Jane Austen. But I won't, because this is your blog, and that would irritate you to no end. >;^)

Dr J said...

You're welcome to write about JA here, Syl, but don't expect me to agree with you. :-)

Comedy, I think, has been historically undervalued for many reasons, not least of which are these, that Aristotle's work on comedy had not survived, and that Shakespeare's greatest accomplishments were in tragedy, and so feeding into the elevation of tragedy, and more recently irony, as privileged aesthetic forms. (See Burke and after.)

They're famous words, now often ascribed to Mel Brooks, but more traditionally ascribed to Sir Donald Wolfit: "Dying is easy. Comedy is hard."

j said...

aww, come on, Austen ain't that bad, you sound like those "snobby" guys back in univ who laughed at austen and preferred to focus on dickens. in fact, the girls who eschewed austen for dickens were regarded as the serious type . well being class dosser, am proud to say that made it through univ without writing an essay on dickens!

Dr J said...

Was never overly fond of Dickens. Jane Austen, however, I despise, though I am more than willing to admit that my distaste for her preeningly pretentious romantic cheek says more about me than it does about her.

Not sure I ever had to write about Dickens, either. Maybe, but I don't remember at all anymore.

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