Friday, August 14, 2009

Snickering over Pigs

Did I mention how friendly all the aspiring writers were at the PNWA conference a couple weeks ago? Genuinely friendly, despite the fact that we all harbored not-so-secret wishes that one of the agents whisking about would think our book stood out above the rabble and sign us on the spot.

There was only one person I met that I thought, "Wow, if you don't mind, I'd rather not spend any more time with you." Not because of her looks, which were odd in terms of artificial hair-color, nor because of her clothes (she had missed the memo that brown is the new black and still wore plenty of the old black). But because, when we were talking books, she sniffed and said, "I don't like funny books. I don't do funny."

Who doesn't like funny books? Who doesn't do funny? And how can such a person gather any friends about her? As Mr. Darcy points out to Elizabeth, "'The wisest and best of men, nay, the wisest and best of their actions, may be rendered ridiculous by a person whose first object in life is a joke.'" To which she responds, "'I hope I never ridicule what is wise or good.'" Hear, hear, Elizabeth! Let us not make fun of wisdom or goodness, but the rest of the world is fair game.

Last night, for example, I lay on the couch snickering over Novella Carpenter's FARM CITY, the passage where she and her boyfriend went Dumpster diving for fish guts from the Chinese restaurant to feed their pigs. Even the local homeless guy thought they were so down-and-out that he tried to give them money. But it was all worth it, from the pigs' perspective: "the squeals of delight were louder than those that any Yummy House Bakery cakes had elicited." And heaven knows those cakes drew loud squeals, not to mention making the pigs bite each other's ears in their desire to snorf down the larger share.

Scott, meanwhile, is re-reading HUCKLEBERRY FINN for Literary Night and snickering away, which reminds me of my favorite Twain essay, "Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses." Pee-your-pants funny, if you do funny.

TANGENT ALERT (please skip the following, if you like to stay on topic): Twain complains of Cooper that his "word-sense was singularly dull...when a person has a poor ear for words, the result is a literary flatting and sharping; you perceive what he is intending to say, but you also perceive that he doesn't say it." I don't know if there is any writer not guilty of literary flatting and sharping from time to time. Yesterday I read a blog post that praised someone's "self-depreciating" humor. Meaning "self-deprecating," I imagine. Unless the writer meant that person's humor lost value over time. Which most humor does. (TANGENT-ON-A-TANGENT ALERT (really skip this, if you're pressed for time): years ago I read portions of a biography on a nobody named Scrope Davies (a friend of Byron, among others). Scrope was a legendary wit in his time and circles, but, the biographer sadly noted, not many of his bon mots had stood the test of time, and therefore he, the biographer, wasn't going to tell me any of them. I understand, I guess. After all, nobody collected Winston Churchill's unfunny quotes. All of which is to say, more humor is, in fact, "self-depreciating" than "self-deprecating.")

In any case, I've done some flatting and sharping myself. Only on my VERY LAST revision did I realize I'd said Cass's thoughts were "in a swirl" instead of "in a whirl." "In a swirl" must have been inspired by the Pensieve or something. Or maybe all her thoughts were really in a swirl, and she looked like some giant Softserve cone.

Where am I going with this barely-structured post? Uh-oh. I'm sure Twain's #1 ironclad rule for "romantic fiction" probably also applies to blog posts: "That a tale shall accomplish something and arrive somewhere. But the DEERSLAYER tale accomplishes nothing and arrives in the air." Poor Cooper. Poor readers of this blog. For this post, like the Mouse's Tale in ALICE IN WONDERLAND is here
going to
peter
out.

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