Yeah, but on the inside I’m laughing

Howard Jacobson pleads for the return of the novel to that first fine careless taste of irresponsibility:
“The first novels ever written were novels that made us laugh. We laugh rarely when we’re reading now, aloud or to ourselves. The blockbusters which people take to the beach, like the novels solemnified by 9/11 – though those make it far less frequently to the seaside – are read as though in a trance. Pornographers will tell you that laughter in a sex scene is like a pistol shot at a concert. It ruptures the fantasy. In their guidelines for aspiring writers of eroticism, the publishers of Black Lace warn specifically against comedy. What they do not go on to say is that laughter is the operation of intelligence, an act of criticism, and the moment you subject porn, soft or hard, to intelligence, it comes apart like a mummified artefact exposed to light. Ditto The Da Vinci Code. Ditto the modern novel of highly responsible ideological intent.”

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