Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Howard Jacobson on Comic Novels

Howard Jacobson's The Finkler Question -- a comedy about anti-Semitism -- won the $79,000 Man Booker Prize for Fiction today in London. Today's Washington Post has a lengthy article on Jacobson and his award-winning comedy and the Man Booker Prize. And thanks to Christopher Barzak's post on Facebook, I learned about an interview with Jacobson in The Guardian in which he speaks on "taking comic novels seriously." This is another instance where a quote was so poignant, so awe inspiring, that I just had to post it here. I'll leave the entire Jacobson interview for you to read if/when you choose, but for now there is this:

"Trawl through the world of blogs and tweets and you will find readers complaining when they stumble upon a word they don't recognise, an attitude that doesn't accord with their own, a passage of thought they find hard work, a joke they don't get or of which they don't approve. Anyone would think that the whole art and pleasure of reading consisted in getting helter-skelter through a novel, unscathed, unchallenged, and without encountering anyone but oneself. Once we wrestled with the angel when we read; now we ask only to slumber in his arms.

But the greatest novels won't let us. The novelist, at his swelling comic best -- a Dickens or a Dostoevsky, a Cervantes or a Kafka, a Joseph Roth or a Henry Miller -- goes where Hamlet dares the skull of Yorick to go, straight to my painted lady's chamber, rattling his bones and making her laugh at the terrible fate that awaits her. His comedy spares nothing and spares no one. And in the process asserts the stubbornness of life. Why would we want to read anything less?"

― Howard Jacobson

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