Search This Blog

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Writing - a serious laugh

Recently, a Guardian columnist who shall remain nameless displayed his literary snob credentials on his sleeve, criticising the massive affectionate outpouring for the late Sir Terry Pratchett, claiming there were many more worthy authors that should be read instead. In short, he felt that too much emphasis was placed on popular fiction instead of that serious stuff. Oh, and to make matters worse, he hadn’t actually read any of Pratchett’s books! The online comments in response seemed almost universal in their condemnation of his article and stance.

Maybe he feels that literature should address the human condition and not popular demand. Clearly, he hasn’t read anywhere enough popular fiction, as virtually every day popular authors are writing about the travails we face on this mortal coil, though invariably wrapped up in genre fiction.

I recall one reviewer of John D. MacDonald stated, ‘I shall not forgive John D. if he embarks on the Great American Novel. He is writing a chapter of it with every McGee thriller.’ MacDonald used humour in his genre fiction too.
The columnist must lack a sense of humour. I don’t mean the wonderful humour in Pratchett’s books – though he would doubtless be a more engaging columnist if he absorbed some of that writer’s slant on the world.

I write crime novels (and westerns and fantasy) which tend to look at the human predicament within the specific genre. Human frailty has been with us throughout history and will continue as such until the social engineers strip all individuality from us. Yet in contrast to the seriousness of conflict and drama, life also has humour. Life would be so drab without a laugh.

So I was particularly pleased that a recent Amazon review (of Catalyst) used the word ‘amusing’ to describe what is essentially a crime thriller.

‘This was an amusing read from start to finish. Vengeance takes many forms but it doesn’t necessarily leave a good taste in the mouth for Catherine Vibrissae - there are some recurring regrets. Catherine has a grand plan and not much is going to deflect her from fully carrying it through, yet reading of such important deeds doesn’t have to be a serious business as we find out in Catalyst! Her skills are numerous, but I loved that the author, Nik Morton, manages to inject her competence with a degree of quiet dignity. Preconceived notions about the past aren’t always entirely accurate and Cat has much to learn as the adventure unfolds…

‘Rick Barnes is a character who is easy to like and I particularly found his physiological talents quite funny. To say more might spoil things for the potential reader but if you’re looking for a quick and satisfying read, I can thoroughly recommend Catalyst. I’m definitely looking forward to Book 2 in the series.’

The point is, despite the suspense and danger, humour is in there, sometimes lovers fencing with words, sometimes as a response to a tricky situation – just like life. You need to use humour to get through the day, sometimes.
And laugh at columnists who think their reading experience is superior to your own.

No comments: