Wednesday, September 24, 2014
Lorrie Moore and the Tragically Humorous
In Elissa Schappell’s introduction to Lorrie Moore in 3x33, she highlights the way in which Moore has the ability to take tragic, disturbing, or generally heavy situations (or a mix of all three) and bring them to life not only through startling metaphors, dialogue, and description, but also through witty, satirical humor and brilliant wordplay. In doing this, it would seem she would shift the weight from the situation, but as Schappell notes, this isn’t the case – instead, she ends up enhancing the atmosphere. In the human experience, there is little that is simple and one-sided, and even as we go through the most pain, we find ourselves laughing. As Schappell puts it, “Grief is messy and uncontainable – humor happens.” The result of Moore’s efforts are characters that are startlingly human from start to finish, and feel the full range of emotions. Would you agree?
In Moore’s “Referential”, a mother deals with her son’s struggle with mental illness. As he becomes progressively worse, her lover, Pete (the only character with a name), begins to pull away, even though he is the only one who seems to have an effect on the son. While decidedly grim, the narrative, told from a limited third person perspective of the mother, contains witty, interesting thoughts, and the son’s dialogue, while obviously disturbed, is tragically humorous. Is Moore making a statement about mental illness as a whole here, or about life? Are the characters believable in their humor, especially when it comes to the mother’s sharp, insightful wit? What do you think of her idea of “mutilation as a language”, and is it meant to be darkly humorous – and, in this, is there truth? Is the mother’s narration reliable, or perhaps a sign that she is also mentally unstable? How well was this executed?
Do you think you could create characters that echo Moore’s and feel many emotions but often deflect with wit? Does Moore do it believably herself?
Posted by Tess Christmas at 4:04 PM