Thursday, July 23, 2009

Not Laughing

I believe, deep down, I have no sense of humor. 

Or at least, if I do have a sense of humor, it's vacuous and superficial, willing to laugh at a comedian, but not willing to dig deeply into what makes something funny, or to care about anything that brings a smile to my face. 

Don't get me wrong. By my very nature, I am overtly cheerful. I resemble Pollyanna more than any other person I know, despite my tendency to seek and tell truth. I'm a glass-half-full kind of person, living a life with little angst (and what angst I do have I put here). But my characteristics don't lead to a corresponding taste in literature. Certainly, I don't gravitate to the violent, or the sex-crazed star-crossed lovers sort of thing, but I also don't gravitate towards humor.

I'm reading through Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince again (how many times has it been?), and I am struck by how little I value the humor of it the umpteenth time through. What do I love? The emotional impact. The seriousness of certain situations. Even in the film, the scene that left me coldest was the one in the Weasely twins' shop... and in the whole set of books, my favorite scenes are the serious ones... especially the dementor attack in Book #5. 

It isn't just Harry. It's every book I've ever read. I am drawn to the pathos, the weeping. I saw Gladiator three times in the theater--I even saw Titanic five times, and though the romance between Rose and Jack left me completely cold, I found the other "real" characters mesmerizing: the old couple snuggling together on their bed; the mother reading to her children below deck, knowing they would all die because she wasn't allowed to leave; the carpenter staring at the clock on the mantle, aware that it was all his fault the ship was sinking. The same events that make it certain my husband will never watch a film again are what drives me to see it. 

Maybe those films provide me with what I don't have in my real life. I have laughter. I have romance. I have all sorts of joy. I don't want real tragedy in my life, so I just enjoy it vicariously through film and books. I live through Harry, grateful that I don't have to live a life like his, yet fascinated by the trauma all the same. My writing does the same thing: it creates extraordinary events for me to involve myself in, fantasies that I would never want in real life but that are compelling for me (and hopefully, someday, for readers). 

What's missing in your life? What do you read/write for?


  1. OK, I believe, deep down, I have a sense of humor, even a good one. If you don't, it doesn't keep you from being hilarious. Just sayin'.

    I love humor and I'll watch many a marginal movie over and over if it makes me laugh.

    Having said that, I like things that make me think - but I can read/see them once and that's enough. The thinking goes on indefinitely.

    I also can be seduced by things that make me feel. Some can capture me time and time again, some, like the thinking, I can bear only once. I'm so highly empathetic that real and unadulterated pathos is hard for me to take more than once - I feel it too keenly. So, while I'm glad I watched Schindler's List and Sophy's Choice, I feel no urge to watch them again. Emotionally charged scenes, however, that are happier or inspirational - those I can take repeatedly.

    I also like adventure and suspense (to an extent), wondering what happens next, getting breathless at the adventure and the danger.

    If I'm caught up in the characters, what happens to them I feel, whether it's sorrow, anger, danger, love, fear, hope...

    I look for characters I can identify with sufficiently to walk in their shoes a bit. Not because my life is empty, but because my life is limited in perspective. Looking out through another's eyes broadens my horizons and, in my opinion, makes me a better and more tolerant person.

    Plus, it's fun.

  2. I read for strength, humor and comedy. I have had enough drama in my life, thank you very much. I am not sure that I liked all the darkness in Harry Potter nor do I think that it was all necessary. In my version of it Gandalf doesn't die but lives on to help Harry in his quest to right the wrongs that he will continue to find in his world. Much harder to live and help, than to die. I don't believe that everything will go right even if the series ends. Something will always come up.

    If I read drama it is to know that I am not alone. If I keep striving to improve my lot or to change my perspective that I too will find the happiness that I so richly deserve. I am so truely blessed in my life right now but this has been one of my roughest weeks. Why I can't say but I have learned how truely stong I am. Some may view my compassion and kindness as a form of weakness but I do not. It takes more courage and strength to be kind and turn the other cheek than it does to always do it your way. Who is to say that your way is right? I look to others for a different perspective than my own for in that I will find strength. My best friends are the ones who are vastly different but that I can laugh and learn with. Just yesterday I had a wonderful conversation with a true friend. Were we always in agreement? No, but we were learning from each other.

    I watched a truely moving and wonderful drama today called "The Great Debaters" A more stirring movie I am not sure I have ever seen. Yes, it was a drama but it showed many characters with strength. Not just one. I truely recommend if you get a chance to watch it. It is beautiful to know how truely far we have come since then but it is also wonderful to think how truely far we still have to go. It is not the end that we live for but the Journey. I hope soon to remember that better myself and to entwine the following quote more within my life, "God I know that we are the chosen people, but couldn't you chose someone else for a change" by Shalom Aleichem. I may not be Jewish but I love the Jewish people. They have survived so many hardships and have learned to joke about them. Comedy and strength what is there not to love?

  3. I love humor in most anything I read or watch, not a ton and it can’t be direct or the focal point of the story.. but yet a good laugh helps me connect to a character in most cases that any other…. Ok maybe a sadness/loss with laughter as a pick me up.

    I find the weasleys in all the harry potter books/films a blast and hilarious, Their comic relief is needed and brings a sense of humanity to areas of the story that need it. Ron makes me laugh all the time, I couldn’t imagine the books without him…

    Maybe I like the humor side because I can’t write that way, I can write sadness and anger with the best of them. But any attempt with humor is a disaster…. For the most part my attitude is light and full of humor, I try and make every situation I am in better and more enjoyable… but I do this out of instinct and reaction to others, when I have to be funny or think about it I fail miserably.

    It is like the yin and yang theory, how would you know if anything was good if there was not evil to compare it to…

    I feel it is vital to any story to have a good mix or rang of all the emotions to adequately draw the reader/watcher into the story and relate to the characters…

    To answer your questions
    1: what is missing in my life… Money I have everything else, and more than I could ask for. Great family and lots of great friends

    2: what do I read/ write for… I read to learn, I write to explore my full potential. I am a different person when I write. It comes natural and easy, I don’t know a think about proper grammar nor do I have a clue about syntax {thx god for my very smart daughter that edits my writing} but I can pump out 5 thousand words in a good night and it fills me with a sense of accomplishment that nothing I have ever done has…

  4. Wow, what answers! (My blog must have struck a chord.)

    I can see the need to have a range of emotion in a book, so that nothing gets too overwhelming. Perhaps that is why romance novels aren't good without a bit of humor thrown in (or SOMETHING besides love)... although I find I need much more than romance to keep me reading.

    I love that you all seem to have good things in your lives, and use reading/writing add depth and perspective (and enjoyment) to it.