This year’s Booker has been awarded to satire – again! I was dreading The Sellout winning the Booker because I really don’t want to tackle another satire. No matter how worthy it may be.
Satire is used to highlight the foolishness or vices within a society of group. It can be categorised further into irony, sarcasm, exaggeration, ridicule and parody.
I don’t mind some satire – some of my favourite books are satire – Pride and Prejudice, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, A Fraction of the Whole, The World According to Garp and Northanger Abbey for instance.
I enjoyed studying The Loved One, The Importance of Being Ernest and Animal Farm at school.
I have also appreciated the message/warning that is behind books like A Brave New World, Lord of the Flies and 1984.
But I often just get tired of the joke (I’m thinking of you Catch-22 and Jasper Fforde, Terry Pratchett and dare I say Douglas Adams – I adored Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy but I got very tired by the fifth book).
Or they just leave me cold (Cold Comfort Farm, Solar, The Finkler Question, American Psycho, A Clockwork Orange).
Garry Trudeau stated in an article in The Atlantic recently that,
Traditionally, satire has comforted the afflicted while afflicting the comfortable. Satire punches up, against authority of all kinds, the little guy against the powerful.
Tim Parks in the New York Review of Books said,
satire alludes to recognizable contemporary circumstances in a skewed and comic way so as to draw attention to their absurdity. There is mockery but with a noble motive: the desire to bring shame on some person or party behaving wrongly or ignorantly. Its raison d’ȇtre over the long term is to bring about change through ridicule; or if change is too grand an aspiration, we might say that it seeks to give us a fresh perspective on the absurdities and evils we live among, such that we are eager for change.
Since satire has this practical and pragmatic purpose, the criteria for assessing it are fairly simple: if it doesn’t point toward positive change, or encourage people to think in a more enlightened way, it has failed.
I think the reason I often struggle with satire is that I have trouble seeing the ‘noble motive’, all I see is the ‘mockery’. So I decided to circumvent the noble worthy motive and go straight to the heart of black comedy with this month’s featured book for Brona’s Salon.
However please feel free to discuss your current read or join in the conversation in any way that you see fit.
What are you currently reading?
Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene
How did you find out about this book?
I was researching books set in Cuba to read in preparation for our trip to Cuba.
This was first on every list I found.
Yes *squeal* we’re going to Cuba!
Why are you reading it now?
Because our trip to Cuba is very, very soon!
“Mr. Wormold, vacuum cleaner salesman in a city of powercuts, is, as always, short of money. His daughter, sixteen, followed everywhere by wolf whistles, is spending his money with a skill that amazes him, so when a mysterious Englishman offers him an extra income he’s tempted. All he has to do is run agents, file reports: spy. But his fake reports have an alarming tendency to come true, and the web of lies he weaves around him starts to get more and more tangled.”
Which character do you relate to so far?
I’m not sure you’re meant to relate to any of these characters?
(which is another problem I often have with satire & it’s related sub-genres)
Are you happy to continue?
Where do you think the story will go?