Friday, January 31, 2003

Reading a collection of short stories by Garrison Keillor just now. He has the ability to take the most ordinary of life's events and turn it into hilarity. I keep trying to think of some incident in my life that was hilarious. Of course, all those memories flee for the darkest corners of my mind when they know I'm looking for them.

The only ones left are the ones weighed down with some element that is definitely not funny, some whiff of cruelty or personal tragedy or loss (which was probably what made them so funny to begin with, by way of contrast), there they trundle for the closet, desperately trying to get away, trundle trundle Ohmygod here she comes! No! No! Not me! I can't stand the light of day!

Then, when I'm about to leap and pounce, it turns on me and bares its fangs: No! Wait! you'll be sorry! Don't you remember, it turned out that in the uproariousness of the moment you forgot to go pick up your mother from the doctor's and he'd just told her she had a suspicious lump and she'd have to have a CAT scan and they wouldn't know for two weeks whether she had cancer, so there she stood for an hour and a half in the pouring rain, terrified and abandoned, while you and your gang of idiots drank wine and laughed the afternoon away?--

and by golly that's effective. The whole thing doesn't seem so funny any more. I let it skitter off under the baseboards.*

And the description of physical pratfalls--Keillor is a master! How does he do that? Lord knows I've had my share of those. But to be able to write about them so they're funny? No way. It ends up reading like an engineer's deconstruction manual. Yawn.

I would love to be able to write humor. Oh, sometimes in my stories, when I read them to the writer's group, they'd get laughs--but always where and for what, took me completely by surprise. I hadn't meant it to be funny. Fortunately, those laugh-points were okay, I didn't have to pitch the story, or re-write it; they didn't hurt, and probably helped the stories.

But it makes me wonder. When I wrote it, there was no humor in my body. I wasn't thinking of it as humorous. Yet, it was. Man, people have told me all my life I'm weird. I guess I really must be!

*Note: this event is made up. But don't worry, I've been just as much an ass in other situations. It's close enough.

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