Even if you do not have a background in literary theory, you must have heard of different literary movements and periods. One such period is the dark, lugubrious, and all-round depressing period known as Modernism. One of its most striking characteristics is of this literary period is the overly intellectual nature of the writing. The layers of complexity interwoven into an intertextual mess may be one of the main reasons that modernism, as a movement, quickly sank in the public eye into disrepute as snooty and condescending to its readers (to truly “get” The Waste Land, which is one of the more recognizable results of the “age of disillusionment”, you need to have read the majority of the Graeco-Roman canon).
These grim looking fellows (sorry feminists, the movement was unfortunately dominated by men) even look stern and overbearing in their pictures. They are the very image(s) of taking one’s self too seriously. Despite their bad reputation, there is no way around it, those stories, poems, and plays are, in a word, brilliant, which is probably why literary critics, and literati in general, drool over them.
But why do stories need to be so serious and complex in order to be good? Even if we ignore the possibility that those critics and literature enthusiasts like modernist writers BECAUSE they are complex and intertextual, surely stories of such insight and grand scope would still get the same level of esteem without all this depressing droll.
Myself, I feel a lot more respect for those writers who give the same level of insight into the world and its people through much lighter means. Means of sharp, Wilde-like wit and on-point satire. I mean writers such as Adams, Pratchett, Gaiman, and their likes. This is much harder than it seems, of course. Not only is it hard to zero in on the deepest problems of our world, but doing so with any degree of levity is a stretch of human faculties.
I’ve made my first foray into this manner of writing with a Douglas Adams-like piece which I still hope to get published, but the inspiration for this post is a little different. I wrote a play, solely for my fiance, in which two turtles take the place of Vladimir and Estragon, while another, absent turtle took the role of the famous Godot.
It was far more satisfying to hear her laugh then to cause her any kind of depression and loss of hope for humanity. I saw something far more noble in making someone both happy and making them think about something. True, it wasn’t ground-breaking stuff, just a couple of turtles talking, but the very idea of making light while using the same literary devices as those used to cut through to humanities most exposed nerves made me think about those grim writers, locked up in their rooms, smoking cigarette after cigarette while pouring over endless tomes of the great classics. Why not give people a laugh instead? you can still think while laughing…