"And the Bible, from apple to Armageddon, does not contain a single joke." (Julian Gough, "Divine Comedy," Prospect Magazine, Issue 134 , May 2007)
Is that really true?
Second interesting tidbit from the same article:
"The problem is not specific to Christianity. Islam has always had a problem with comedy at its expense, as Salman Rushdie showed in The Satanic Verses. In Medina, in year two of the Hijra migration, with Mecca not yet fallen, the Prophet asked the faithful to kill the Jewish-Arab poet Ka'b ibn al-Ashraf for reciting his poems satirising the Prophet (and joking about Muslim women). The faithful obliged."
"The novel, when done right—when done to the best of the novelist's abilities, talent at full stretch—is always greater than the novelist. It is more intelligent."
Gough goes on from there, into a few more claims about how cool novels are. But the idea that the work is more intelligent than the author (or than readers) is one that crossed my mind while I was working on my dissertation: Doris Lessing is a great writer, but her novels are much more intellectually sound than her essays. When she tries to say what her novels are about, her remarks fall far short of what the fiction itself is actually doing.
Further (about that reader parentheses in the previous sentence), at the same time, I also noticed that Christa Wolf's "Was bleibt," with all the controversy surrounding it, was far more insightful than all of its critics and supporters—and probably than its author realized, too.
"The comic point of view—the gods'-eye view—is much more uncomfortable for a believer in one all-powerful God than it was for the polytheistic Greeks. To have the gods laughing at us through our fictions is acceptable if the gods are multiple, and flawed like us, laughing in recognition and sympathy: if they are Greek gods. But to have the single omnipotent, omniscient God who made us laughing at us is a very different thing: sadistic, and almost unbearable. We do not wish to hear the sound of one God laughing."
"The task of the novelist is [...] not to fake a coherence that does not exist, but to capture the chaos that does."
NOT. Kyle Gann:
"There's no reason music should reflect the world. If a chaotic world needs chaotic music [...], the terrifying 14th century wouldn't have produced the orderly isorhythmic motet [...] Since I don't believe we live in an unusually chaotic period, my theory about neoexpressionism ["Downtown" music from New York in the eighties, e.g., John Zorn] is that it provides an illusion of freedom, chaos, heroic survival, in a world that, when you really look at it, seems ever more rigidly controlled by corporate machinations." (That's from Music Downtown, but I have it because
That's a lot of tidbits!