Thursday, January 04, 2007

Show Me the Funny

Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not; a sense of humor to console him for what he is. ~ Francis Bacon

Life is depressing enough... why would I want to read depressing stories? I never, never, never liked Danielle Steele, even in her heyday because she truly tormented her protagonists, ripped them limb from limb, destroyed them in every way possible before -- in the last ten pages -- she gave them a happy ending.

That isn't a good story for me.

As a younger person, I took English Lit and was subsequently force fed "literature". I read "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" by Ernest Hemingway. Now there's an uplifted story! No, wait... even better: "Of Mice and Men" by John Steinbeck! Yes! That leaves a rosy glow when you read it, doesn't it?

With the possible exception of Charles Dickens, who had a wicked sense of humor (and whose work I wasn't required to read, though much of it is still rather depressing), most classic literature is depressing as hell. I think about this a lot because many writers aspire to this level. Also because I homeschool, and I imagine that at some point I may be required to assign the classics to my DD -- something I will undoubtedly resist with much fervor because of the clear memory of how much I hated it myself.

I'm finally reading a Harlequin American novel that I am thoroughly enjoying -- it's fun and doesn't take itself too seriously. The characters are great and well-rounded and quirky enough to really appeal to my odd sense of humor. It's one of the first times I've read a category romance and thought, "I wish I'd written this."

I'm only about 60 pages into this book, through, so I can't guarantee that my excitement with this particular story will last, but for now I give you:

Mad About Max by Penny McCusker

It may not be "literature", but after reading the news in the morning, I need something that will make me smile, not bring me down.

Maybe that's just me.

Is it just me?


Tori Lennox said...

I don't like depressing reading material either. Hated all those classics I was forced to read in school. The only classics I'd be tempted to read these days would be Jane Austen. But life's deprressing enough without reading other depressing things. Give me the light, fluffy books! I love them! Make me laugh! Or at least kill off some really nasty people and let me help solve the crime. *g*

Judy said...

I'm the same way about movies. I don't want to watch something that's going to make me cry (well... sometimes I do, but that's just so I'll have an excuse for all the crying I do when I'm PMSing)

MaryF said...

That's exactly why i read romance! I am not so much into the light and fluffy, but I love the security of knowing it will all come out.

Right now I'm reading a Pride and Prejudice "sequel" and it's so enjoyable because it's just - pleasant. There are conflicts, of course, but nothing that makes you squirm.

I'm like Judy, too, in that I'm the same with movies. I don't want to see a movie that will make me cry.

Allie Boniface said...

I think it's the idea of catharsis: readers and viewers go through the whole gamut of emotions so we feel "cleansed" on the other side. I will admit both to liking a lot of classic lit, even the depressing stuff, and watching tear-jerkers.

However, in the interest of your search for non-depressing lit. for your daughter, here's a list of 10 that aren't too bad (obviously TBR in a few years from now!). Added bonus: many of them feature strong female characters:

1. To Kill a Mockingbird
2. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
3. Jane Eyre (one of the original great love stories, with the line "He made me love him without looking at me..."
4. Little Women (yeah, I know Beth dies, but the other female characters are pretty cool)
5. David Copperfield
6. A Christmas Carol
7. Pride and Prejudice (suck it up and read it already!)
8. The Hobbit
9. The Odyssey (OK, cheat and get the abridged version. Then you can rent "O Brother, Where Art Thou" - same story)
10. Atlas Shrugged (an enormous work but hugely thought-provoking)

Charity said...

Jenny Crusie really said what I wanted to in her response to Bob's lesson here, in part:

Then Bob says, the more negative the Intent/Theme, the harder it is to keep readers. I don’t agree. So you write a book in which love doesn’t conquer all, big deal. Some readers don’t like happy endings, they want their catharsis through tragedy. What matters is that your negative or tragic intent have meaning.

You got to scroll down in the lesson to read the whole thing, parts of which are very funny.

I agree with her 100%. And if an ending is sad or tragic, it doesn't mean it is necessarily depressing. The news is depressing because a lot of the time, it's hard if not impossible to find meaning in some things that go on.

That's why some people want to read/write sadder books--to make sense of it all, to give it meaning.