Friday, December 16, 2005

Now This Is How You Write About Your Own Writing

I finally got around to reading the November/December issue of The Horn Book, which is a good thing since I'm sure the next issue will be turning up soon. My favorite article was JonScieszka's Zena Sutherland Lecture, "What's So Funny, Mr. Scieszka?"

Recently I've talked in this blog about the way writers and readers of different genres often become defensive and lash out at one another. Chick lit vs. lit lit, is the case in point. Well, in his lecture, Scieszka talked about writing humor, which is what he does. He said that he believes humor doesn't get the respect it deserves, but, that being said, he did not go on to attack other types of writing.

Instead, he made a very interesting point. "Teachers love to dig into tragedies and problem novels, in part because they can be explained and illuminated by discussion." A few paragraphs later he said, "But it's much more difficult to explain or discuss what's so funny about anything. The very nature of humor works against explanation. In many cases, the old adage is true--you either 'get it' or you don't."

Never once did he attack writers of tragedies and problem novels. Never did he try to build up what he does by knocking down what someone else does. Instead, he simply explained the situation.

I suspect that if you really understand what you, yourself, are doing, you don't have to talk about it in relation to what anyone else does. You can just talk about your work. Period. Scieszka sounds as if he understands what he's doing. He gave what looks on paper to be a fascinating lecture on humor and the influences on his own writing.

I've never been a big Scieszka fan, myself, finding his humor a little forced. However, this article was so good that I'm going to hit the library after Christmas and haul home a whole stack of his books and give him another try.

I can't say enough about how much I appreciate a well-written, intelligible piece of nonfiction.

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