Recently we discussed a Times article about why comic novels often get overlooked when it comes to literary awards. Over at BlackBook, author and Columbia professor Sam Lipsyte adds his thoughts on the status of funny fiction today:
Do you feel that literary fiction is afraid to make people laugh these days?
I think there’s a worry that if it’s funny then perhaps there’s something slight about it. That it’s not as important as a deeply researched, earnest, historical novel, or a kind of humorless tale of contemporary life. I think there possibly was a moment in the ‘60s and ‘70s when the serious books tended to be pretty funny. I don’t know if that’s as true these days. […]
Who do you think is still doing that?
Well, Padgett Powell is still doing it, Barry Hannah is still doing it. Ben Marcus can be hilarious. Gary Lutz, Deb Olin Unferth. These are all people that are really dead serious and dead funny, and I’m interested in that as well. Wells Tower. I think it’s being done, but it’s not as front and center, not as widely read as it used to be, fiction that does that sort of thing. Maybe it’s also linked to readerships, how they’ve changed over the years. Or maybe it all got eaten up by Harry Potter and Twilight. I think, more and more, that’s what adults read now. All the people we’ve talked about are people who write hilarious, heartwrenching, and often horrific fiction, and they wrote for grown-ups. Maybe there aren’t enough grownups who want to read that sort of thing anymore.