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Funny writers

February 17, 2010

From an appropriately entertaining, if sometimes annoying interview with Martin Amis:

Dryden said, literature is instruction and delight, and there are people who think that if they’re not getting delight then they are getting a lot of instruction, when in fact they’re not getting that either. But it has a sort of of gloomy constituency. If there is no pleasure transmitted then I’m not interested. I mean, look at them all: Dickens, George Eliot, Jane Austen, Smollet, Fielding, they’re all funny. All the good ones are funny. Richardson isn’t, and he’s no good. Dostoyevsky is funny: The Double is a scream. Tolstoy is funny by being just so wonderfully true and pure. Gogol, funny. Flaubert, funny. Dickens. All the good ones are funny.

This dynamic appears in other places too. Most academic writing is deeply, systemically humorless. There are jokey asides, but they only make the inner humorlessness more apparent.

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