Friday, May 2, 2008

Is It Just Me?

My abdominal muscles are sore today from reading a Shirley Jackson story late last night. Most of her stories aren't hilarious. But this one made me double over in laughter, which meant I had to stop reading until I could get my compulsion to laugh under control because it's impossible to read while one's eyes are streaming and one's body is folded up like a jackknife. This happened several times as I tried to keep reading. And then, when once I had managed to finish it, I just had to read parts of it again, I was so taken with its concise, witty pleasures. And the need to laugh actually got worse. So there I was, laughing and coughing and addicted to reading my favorite bits over and over like a drug, wondering how I'd ever settle down to sleep if I started laughing every time I recalled the funniest lines in the story.

And now I have the urge to read the parts that crack me up to others, though I know very well that without reading the whole story may favorite lines probably won't seem funny. I even have to wonder if anyone else will find it as hilarious as I do. The story's very short-- only six pages. Anyone else read this story lately?

Oh, the title. I almost forgot: "Of course." (Which, by the end, are very funny words indeed.)


Josh said...

Hi Timmi. Just went and read it at your recommendation and found it droll; but I don't think I woulda seen it as LOL hilarious even if I'd come upon it spontaneously. Do let me know what lines excited you and what in your experience so resonated with it that you busted a gut.

Timmi Duchamp said...

That was Tom's reaction, too. I did hear one brief outburst of laughter from him while he was reading it, but he thinks my reaction must have been due to the lateness of the hour. (I'm apparently still infected, though, since reading certain lines still makes me laugh, aching abdominal muscles notwithstanding.)

I'll let you know about the particular lines that caused me to convulse once I get my copy of the book back. See, after reading that story, Tom went on to read more, & right now he's reading "The Lottery" (for the first time, if you can believe that).

Josh said...

I can't imagine that the rural South of Tom's generation would have understood that "The Lottery" was dystopic, so its absence from reading lists there is no surprise (you should get him Jackson's recorded version, from Smithsonian/Folkways). More disturbing is this creative writing professor at CCSU, who doesn't seem to have heard of it before and regards it as "lazy."

Timmi Duchamp said...

Lazy? I can't think of anything lazier than a middle-class reader claiming that only stories about the interior lives of privileged people are worth reading. It is indeed disturbing that such a lazy reader should be teaching creative writing. I have nothing against lazy readers-- people have many reasons for reading & I myself read for many reasons, including the pleasures of escapism. I don't even expect reviewers to be careful readers. But people who choose to teach others how to write should be able to read with a reasonable degree of competence (not to say sophistication, which I know would be beyond hoping for).

Josh said...

You're reading into that article, which doesn't have as coherent a thesis as you suggest: she lauds Housekeeping, of all things, which is not all about "the interior lives of privileged people." Indeed, it contains some violence and bleakness that I guess she chooses to forget.

Flannery O'Connor said she did not write to comfort the tired reader; today it seems that the tired readers are making even more noise than they were in her time. I think of Pelecanos frequently being asked why his novels of life in D.C. contain so many black people.