February 15, 2014

"Widespread outrage" at loss of sense of humour

Literary knickers are in knots again. Isabel Allende has everybody upset with her comments on her latest work Ripper as in this Guardian article. 

The key is the statement by Allende: 'The book is tongue in cheek. It's very ironic.' And further down by Mark Billingham, 'those poor, ignorant reviewers are simply not getting her fantastic "joke".'

Seems less and less people understand what is meant by 'tongue-in-cheek' or 'ironic' and here are all these po-faced self-important critics, writers, and readers taking this seriously.

She might have shot herself in the foot over this, but good on you Isabel for giving me a chuckle today. Rather than putting me off her book, it has made me far more interested to read it and see for myself what all the fuss about. (Some bookshop owners have been so upset and offended they have sent the book back to the publishers – oh woe – don’t they realise this storm will actually pump up sales?!) 

Despite what the creative writing pundits tell you, I’ve always believed that any truly great writer of fiction should be able to write in just about any genre if they put their mind to it, do their research and homework, and perhaps Isabel would have been wiser to use a pseudonym and just risk getting sprung as happened to JK Rowling.

Another irony is that a few days’ earlier, the Guardian gave the book a mixed review but did include this concluding sentence
And while there are many places where Ripper reads like a half-polished experiment, what lingers is Allende's generosity with fictional detail, her warmth and humanity.
It should now add 'and her sense of humour.'

On a more serious level, I despair when the media uses inflammatory phrases like 'widespread outrage' over something as trivial as this and then uses it again for describing the massacre of innocents in Syria. No wonder people have become desensitised to the power and meaning of words.

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