Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Getting Serious About Humor: A Thurber Nominated Romcom

I read Ms. Demeanor by Elinor Lipman while on retreat. I'd picked it up, because it's a semi-finalist for the Thurber Prize and I'm an Elinor Lipman fan. Though I've only read three of her books. Perhaps I should make reading Elinor Lipman a thing for this year. Not a goal, because I've already set my goals. Too late for that. I know! I have a Goodreads reading goal. (I surpassed last year's by the way. I didn't mention it here out of modesty and general lack of staying on blog-writing task.) 

What I've liked about the three Lipman books I've read is that she's both light and sophisticated and her basic storylines are unique. And often speak to me, since I was sure that The Inn at Lake Devine was set on a lake near where I grew up. Ms. Demeanor involves food. I like food.

The unique storyline for Ms. Demeanor? The main character is caught having sex in a semi-public place, probably more public than semi, and the legal consequences involve house arrest for multiple months. Things go on from there.

I enjoyed reading the book, but at various points I thought, aren't a number of different things going on here? What's the focus? Then I got to the end and went, Oh! This is a romantic comedy! Now I get it!

I'm not big on reading contemporary romance. Historical is another thing. Historical with mystery even better. Just last month I had to stop reading a perfectly fine contemporary romance, because people finding love all by itself isn't enough for me. Nonetheless, I would definitely recommend Ms. Demeanor to all kinds of readers. 

What About The Comedy Aspect, Gail?

I'm finding humorous fiction (remember this is a semi-finalist for the Thurber Prize for American Humor) different from humorous nonfiction. Humorous essays or memoirs will sometimes have humor on every page or sometimes most paragraphs. The humorous fiction I've read so far hasn't. That doesn't make humorous fiction worse or better than humorous nonfiction, particularly since trying for humor in nonfiction can sometimes be jokie or contrived. It just makes it different. 

That being said, the Polish siblings in Ms. Demeanor? Absolutely funny. The interaction between the main couple, lovely and light-hearted. The main character's sister's realtor boyfriend? Funny. The dentist has her moments, as does the nanny who started this whole mess. Hmm. There is quite a bit of humor here. 

Though I have written humorous middle grade novels and a YA, I need to read a great deal more adult humorous fiction to get a feel for how that works differently or if it does.

As a nod to the cooking in Ms. Demeanor, I am going to mention here that I plan to make two pots of soup this afternoon. 

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