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On Comedy and Violence
October 31, 2009, 5:54 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

From Robert Gluck’s interview with Dennis Cooper in BITING THE ERROR: WRITERS EXPLORE NARRATIVE (2005)…

Dennis Cooper says, in response to Robert Gluck’s question about the relation between comedy and violence/horror in his writing:

I divide the various things going on in the prose into individual systems and attend to each one so that it functions correctly on its own and also services and is serviced by its fellow systems. Comedy is one of the systems, and an important one, because comedy is such a talented tone, yet it has no gravity in and of itself, so it can be used to popularize other systems that are signaling more subjective, meaningful things. It can subvert the visceral effect of represented violence without decentering the actual punch. It can distract readers long enough to ease information into them that would be too confrontational for them to absorb otherwise. It can both deflect the reader’s attention away from the emotional meaning of a violent act and indicate that emotion by causing the reader to wonder why that deflection is occurring. It can signal the reader to relax, then betray his or her trust, thereby creating a particular kind of tension that can be really useful. If it’s used in a novel or section of a novel where authorial intent is as important as the fiction, comedy can function as superficial entertainment while at the same time indicating a shift or tweak in the fiction’s subconscious. Comedy can do a lot, and I try to use it very carefully. (249-50)

The full interview (worth reading) is available here, along with a ton of other provocative and mind-blowing essays on narrative.

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