An Old Friend

3. There are probably whole Johns Hopkins U. Press books to be written on the lallating function that humor serves in today’s US psyche.  A crude way to put the whole thing is that our present culture is, both developmentally and historically, adolescent.  And since adolescence is acknowledge to be the single most stressful and frightening period of human development –– the stage when the adulthood we claim to crave begins to present itself as a real and narrowing system of responsibilities and limitations (taxes, death) and when we yearn inside for a return to the same childish oblivion we pretend to scorn* –– it’s not difficult to see why we as a culture are so susceptible to art and entertainment whose primary function is escape, i.e. fantasy, adrenaline, spectacle, romance, etc.  Jokes are a kind of art, and because most of us Americans come to art now essentially to escape ourselves –– to pretend for a while that we’re not mice and walls are parallel and the cat can be outrun –– it’s understandable that most of us are going to view “A Little Fable” as not at all that funny, or maybe even see it as a repulsive instance of the exact sort of downer-type death-and-taxes reality for which “real” humor serves as a respite.

*(Do you think it’s a coincidence that college is when many Americans do their most serious fucking and falling-down drinking and generally ecstatic Dyonysian-type reveling?  It’s not.  College students are adolescents, and they’re terrified, and they’re dealing with their terror in a distinctively US way.  Those naked boys hanging upside-down out of their frat house’s windows on Friday night are simply trying to buy a few hours’ escape from the grim adult stuff that any decent school has forced them to think about all week.)

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Note to the heavens: I’ll work on the books about the “lallating function” that humor STILL serves.  Rest in peace, DFW.

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