Sunday, September 28, 2014

Humor Me

The use of spoken and written language in Real Time often bears an unpleasant resemblance to the use of firearms.  There are many responsible and thoughtful users of each, resulting in a spirited and vivid literature  reflective of communication, and an imaginative display of tools relative to hunting, marksmanship, and related sports.

Both language and firearms have the added ability to effect civil and political outcomes as well as to cause accidental and deliberate injury.  Laws such as those governing libel and slander have been enacted to provide protection from written and spoken injury.  Common sensical and social conventions also govern and suggest standards for the use of language.  Civil, criminal, and common sensical laws also obtain where the use of firearms is concerned.

Frequent accidents occur in the use of language and of firearms, incidents where feelings are hurt, reputations injured, and individuals and property brought in harm's way, sometimes to the point of maiming and outright fatality.

Beginning with the First Amendment and extending through statutes and conventions related to freedom of expression, an extensive corpus juris defines what may be said and published. Nevertheless, books and publications have a significant history of being banned at national, state, and local levels.

Within recent years, state and Federal laws regulating the sale and possession of firearms has undergone spirited revision and articulation, resulting in seeming ironies where some states allow open carry of weaponry in places where no weapons of any sort would be presumed necessary.

With equal but in large measure unnoticed irony, language in Real Time delivers painful projectiles at individuals, demographics, genders, sexual and religious orientation, racial background, and social strata with the same kind of velocity and potential for injury as a bullet from a gun.  

The irony is often compounded when the deliverer of such remarks expresses anger and frustration over the fact of his remarks not being seen for the humor in which they were intended.

Such anger and frustration work better in story because humor in literature is more often respected for the live ammunition it is, while in Real Time, the term "intended humor" is a code for a cover-up.

Dialogue in effective and memorable story proves itself to be one of the most powerful of dramatic weapons, expressing by subtext and attempts at evasion the things a character does not wish to say but nevertheless cannot help saying in some way.

Within the murky terrains of story, dialogue is the equivalent of open carry, regardless of where.  Its targets are hypocrisy, the moral high ground, and whatever vital lies of whatever culture or society are permitted to wander about.

Perhaps you push the matter a step or two beyond the boundaries set by some of the writers recognized over the years for the characters and the way these characters speak.  Names such as Ring Lardner, Dorothy Parker, Louise Erdrich, John O'Hara, Dennis Lehane, Denis Johnson, and Margaret Atwood come to mind, all of whom evoke the arguable presence of humor in their dialogue.  Add Mark Twain.  Add Geoffrey Chaucer.  Add Sinclair Lewis.  Add Joan Didion.  Add J.D. Salinger.  Add Franz Kafka.

Many of these writers had their works banned on one or more arguments of the moral high ground, which is to say they fired barbs at targets.  

If we pause for a moment to examine that great ox of story and analogy to see whose ox has just been gored, we see the underbelly of humor, bared for us to see and laugh at.  When dialogue sparkles to life, we see the things characters are at the same kinds of pain to cover up as some of the individuals in Real Time who are speaking at us, probing, sometimes with deft probes, more often with more cumbersome ones, probing to see, all in good fun, you know, if we have a sense of humor, so they can tell us exactly what they think of us.

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