The negative effects of humour

19 Mar

I will admit it. There are some books which I cannot take seriously, and really ought to. When I was doing university entrance exams about forty years ago I had to study D H Lawrence’s book, ‘Sons and Lovers’ as one of the set texts. The trouble was I had just read Stella Gibbons’ book ‘Cold Comfort Farm’ before starting the Lawrence book. Cold Comfort Farm is still one of my favourite books. The passages of exceptionally purple prose are marked, by the author, with a system of stars. The plot concerns a young woman going to stay with relatives who live life in great dramatic scenes with overwrought situations and dialogue. Our heroine, with determination and common sense sorts everything out. It is very funny and rewards multiple readings. It was never meant as a satire on Lawrence, but it does read very much like that. When I came to read the Lawrence I just kept giggling at all the scenes of huge emotional turmoil. I might have achieved a better grade if I had been able to see the true value of Lawrence’s writing. More than that, I still value the ability to see what is overwrought and ridiculous, and I think that is rather more important.

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