The response to the grotesque is humor.


Literary theories come and go, but this one stuck with me.  The idea is this: when something seems too terrible to bear, or so awful that it is awkward to respond, you find a laugh in it; and then you realize your laughter is grotesque.

Last night, for instance, my husband and I entertained some literary friends.  The fact that we are now using canes and having hip and spinal surgeries seemed not so bad, but when the question came up at the dining table, “What do you think is the future of the book?” I felt as if the leaden apron a dentist puts over a patient about to be x-rayed had fallen over all our 16 shoulders.

One of our guests owns Clues Unlimited, a book store specializing in my genre.  The question had been directed to her by the retired headmaster of our city’s top college preparatory school.  Christine’s reply was immediate.  “There is no future.”

Suddenly the rest of us began to babble – a former school psychologist, a middle school principal, two English professors (one still professing), a published poet, and me, a writer.  We didn’t all agree.  I cited the beautiful gardening books I had seen in a small store the day before.  Furthermore, I opined that I would not hesitate to open a children’s bookstore, with a sideline business making bookcases where the covers could face out.  Our poet guest, a retired school librarian, talked about his students coming in to use the computer and never looking at the books.  As far as they were concerned, he was a piece of furniture.

The discussion drifted, of course, into the pros and cons of Kindle and The Nook.  I said I didn’t feel I had to apologize for having bought one, first of all, I buy many books every year, but I felt obligated as a first-time author to see if it was something people my age would use.  Coincidentally, I found it wonderfully liberating, reading in bed, not to have wrist strain and aching thumbs, or to have a pillow on my tummy to prop up a hardcover edition.  Besides, the Kindle can enlarge the type.

Christine snapped back that readers can get large print books at bookstores.  I countered that the younger generation (under 65) responds to the instant gratification: You want a book, you press a couple of buttons, and two minutes later you can start reading chapter one.  Well, not all books are available like that — yet.

Most of us thought that it will be a good thing for our grandchildren to carry less than 20 pounds of textbooks  in their backpacks.

We then began to bounce around ideas for an irresistible, transitional, book store environment – couches, meeting rooms, a coffee counter, wine bar.  We all want bookstores to survive, with customers taking time to talk to each other about what they’ve been reading.  We want them to walk out with armloads of enduring pleasure.  We want a venue for discussion: a book source but also an intimate, club-like, hangout, in a convenient location — next to our Walgreens, for example.

7 comments to The response to the grotesque is humor.

  • I read some great books from – Break the Bipolar Cycle: A Day-by-Day Guide to Living with Bipolar Disorder, Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder, Bipolar Disorder: The Ultimate Guide, Bipolar Disorder: A Guide for Patients and Families, Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder: A 4-Step Plan for You and Your Loved Ones to Manage the Illness and Create Lasting Stability

    • karen

      I wonder why we hear so much about bipolar disorder these days. We have one grandchild who was diagnosed as bipolar and is on two medications — and is captain of her soccer team in college. Of my four best friends, three also have children with that diagnosis. Is it our fault?

  • Great info! I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often. 7

    • karen

      Matthew — It is almost a month later. Are you still reading this blog? Do you have anything to tell us? I wish those of you who check in with Moxie Cosmos with appreciation — though it is encouraging — would jump in with some stories of your own.

  • Thanks dude, I didn’t knew that, cheers.

  • You are a very creative blogger, and I love reading your posts.

    • karen

      Thank you. I’m curious about what you do. You have a government address and yet your name sounds like you work in a health and fitness club. Or a casino.

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