Thursday, March 03, 2011

Literary Blog Hop-How Seriously We Take Ourselves!

Welcome Literary Blog Hoppers!  The Literary Blog Hop is hosted every other week by The Blue Bookcase.  If you're interested in participating, check out their very smart blog!

This week's question is "Can literature be funny? What's your favorite humorous literature?"  While my answer is a resounding YES, which I will get to in a minute, I'm more curious at the moment about the question, because I think that at the heart of it lies the reason that many people are turned off by literary works and find the people who read and talk about them pretentious.  Do we really take ourselves so seriously as a community that we have to ask whether it is OK to laugh at what we read?  Must we be immersed in grave, serious subject matter all the time for it to be worthwhile?  If one aspect of literary merit is the use of language, doesn't it take just as much skill to write a witty turn of phrase as a serious one?  And if another aspect of literary merit is what the work says about the human condition, then sometimes laughing at ourselves is the best way to do that.

From the above mini-rant you can probably guess that I believe that literary works can be humorous.  As for examples, let me start with William Shakespeare.  Even in his tragedies he often had humorous characters.  Then there is Pride and Prejudice and Emma, by literary darling Jane Austen.   Mark Twain also used humor to his advantage, not just in his books but in the way he talked about his life and his writing.  Considering that my definition of literary includes some genre fiction, I'd also include Douglas Addams of the Hitchhikers Guide series and Neil Gaiman examples of literary authors using humor.  Roald Dahl is hilarious!

Lighten up, people!

11 comments:

  1. Dickens can be horribly funny with his casts of grotesques...and the reason I like reading Julian Barnes so much is his urbane, understated humour.
    (Found you via The Blue Bookcase)

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  2. I didn't even think of Adams and the Hitchhiker's Guide but you're absolutely right that it counts as literature and is hilarious. I remember trying to stifle laughter on the subway while reading it. Nice choices!

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  3. Dickens created memorable weird characters, caricatures yet believable!

    Here is my Literary Blog Hop post!

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  4. Completely agree with Shakespeare and Jane Austen- even some of Shakespeare's tragic characters have been funny (see: Hamlet, perving on Ophelia!)

    You can see my take on it here http://devouringtexts.blogspot.com/2011/03/literary-blog-hop-march-3-6.html

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  5. I had to mention Mark Twain and Jane Austen, but I agree with you rant. Of course humor should be a part of great literature, as anything about the human experience should be.

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  6. Mark Twain, yes! I completely overlooked him. He definitely had a knack for timeless humour. I agree that some readers (but no book blogger I know!) are stuffy about classics being nothing but humourless in order to count as "true" literature. I know no one who can say this is true & keep a straight face.

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  7. These are wonderful answers.


    ..Stopping by from the Literary Blog Hop.


    Stop by my blog for a book giveaway:

    LITTLE PRINCES BY CONOR GRENNAN
    http://silversolara.blogspot.com/

    Chelsey Emmelhainz of HARPER COLLINS is graciously providing FIVE copies for five lucky winners.

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  8. I love R Dahl! We read all the books in with our son, one of my favorite memories as a mom.

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  9. I can't believe that Mark Twain didn't occur to me. I really like Pudd'nhead Wilson.

    Your blog is gorgeous by the way.

    See my hop here: http://hawthornescarlet.blogspot.com/2011/03/literary-blog-hop-ha-ha-funny.html

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  10. totally in agreement with your reasoning on the literary worth of a comic phrase.

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  11. Yep, we who love words are Much Too Serious. Should be made a crime worthy of incarceration, I think.

    Here is my post:
    http://readerbuzz.blogspot.com/2011/03/welcome-to-literary-blog-hop-hosted-by.html

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Penny for your thoughts...