Hello readers – it is fine but a bit windy on an autumn day in New Zealand, where I live. Wherever you are, I hope your weather is at least as fine.
My part of the universe is otherwise mostly OK too. Just now I am thinking and researching a new novel, while I try to persuade the part of the universe that is not my part to buy my latest one. And all the other ones. And even the ones people think I wrote but didn’t.
The new one has the working title of Lapchicken Rules, and the aim is to write something funny for a change. If I have a contemporary model in this, it would be Tom Sharpe. His best books are funny while retaining a serious – and even savage – purpose: witness The Throwback and The Great Pursuit.
Writing humour is not easy, especially at length. Some of my posts in this blog are meant to raise a smile at least but sixty thousand words or more of guffaws are a different matter altogether. And I do not mean just to be funny.
Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 masterpiece film, Dr Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, is a good example. This film starred Peter Sellers in three roles, including Dr Strangelove, an ex-Nazi physicist in a wheelchair who kept having to drag his arm down from a Hitler salute, the president of the United States, looking suspiciously like Adlai Stevenson, and an English flight lieutenant who almost but not quite saves the world.
It would be nice to digress here, so I will. Adlai Stevenson was one of many American politicians with an odd first name. You would think a weird name would tend to disqualify but it seems to have acted as a magnet for the bearer to wish to be President of the Yew-nited States! I mean, Adlai! Harry Truman you think was normal but his middle name was an initial – S. Lyndon Johnson may have put a stop to this agreeable tradition until Barack Obama, as all the Presidents in between have had normal names, if sometimes a bit boring and candidates with odd ones have gone south. I mean, would you want a President named Mitt? This is a baseball glove! Or Hubert? He lost to a Richard, who really was a dick. This election year has a Donald, a Marco, a Rafael (“Ted” Cruz), and a Bernard, but nothing like Dwight or Adlai or Ulysses, or Millard. Millard Fillmore! Wow! Adlai’s grandfather was actually Vice-President (1893-1897) so it wasn’t a handicap back then but it was in 1952 and 1956 against a Dwight. Dwight isn’t that great either so he called himself “Ike” to compensate for his surname being so long and German – Eisenhower.There is a musician whose surname was Dwight but he changed it to John. His first name was Reginald and he wasn’t too keen on that either and struck out wildly for a catchy “Elton”. Elton’s new middle name is Hercules. You probably already knew this. He doesn’t want to be President – or if he does, is disqualified by being British. Is he resentful? Write him and ask.
I am back! If you are still here hope you enjoyed that side trip. Dr Strangelove was rightly termed a comedy of terrors rather than errors as Shakespeare had it. This was a film about the end of the cold war via meltdown, through a nutty American Air Force general who kept muttering about “precious bodily fluids” and sent his nuclear squadrons off to flatten the Commos. One does. End of film and story, and us!
Kubrick’s film is often very funny. It is full of gags – one liners it would be wrong to put here for those who have not seen the film.
My idea is to write something funny like that, only different – of course. But just as brill.
Shakespeare as always is a kind of exemplar. The bard’s comedies are not necessarily all funny, and typically they have an underlying life-threatening premise. There are heaps of laughs but the characters may need death defying courage before they discover bliss and (usually) true love. As You Like It is how we like it! The more serious dramas, and tragedies, can also have humorous interludes that give point to the terrible events that surround them. There are, for example, quite a number of gags in Hamlet.
The storyline of the new one is not yet complete, and the research is ongoing and will be right through the final passages. But so far, it’s fun! Writing is not always fun, and the writing part quite frequently is as terrifying as it is satisfying – even simultaneously!
You could say that’s part of the point for a writer. My best prose – according to me of course – has given me goosebumps as I’ve written it, and repeated re-readings have still held that delicious frisson, if at a reduced rate. Sometimes this blog does that too and when a reader writes that s/he has laughed out loud at something, my anaemic chest swells with pride. “Not enough plumage, bird-brain” is my self-criticism, but I do it anyway.
So the adventure continues. There is a lot between here and there – characters ah “fleshed out”, storyline ditto, which includes place, time, duration of time, and lots more. . .but the idea is there and the premise. And I’m beetling on.
Thanks for reading.