Humorless Fiction

 Posted by on 19 April 2006 at 10:49 pm  Uncategorized
Apr 192006

I’m always amazed by attempts to denigrate Ayn Rand’s works in terms like this…

In Ayn Rand’s humorless apocalyptic novel Atlas Shrugged, the central characters ask: What would happen if someone turned off the motor that drives the world?

The adjective “humorless” is unnecessary since “apocalyptic” novels generally aren’t full of chuckles and giggles. It’s also an implicit criticism since “humorless” (unlike “serious” or “grave”) suggests a lack of appropriate or even necessary humor.

Yet why oh why would anyone think that humor is such a major value that every work of fiction must be brimming with humor? Ayn Rand’s other major novel, The Fountainhead, is a wonderfully satiric novel. Isn’t that enough? Apparently not. Yet those who pen such criticisms would surely not ever say “Homer’s humorless epic The Iliad” or “Nathaniel Hawthorne’s humorless novel The Scarlet Letter.” Yet Ayn Rand is routinely attacked for her supposed lack of humor — and unjustly so.

Regarding Ayn Rand’s use of humor in The Fountainhead, I highly recommend Robert Mayhew’s fantastic lecture on “Humor in the Fountainhead.” He gave it to FROST in January. (It was a fantastic evening, perhaps the most thoroughly enjoyable FROST lecture I’ve heard.) He’ll be giving the lecture at NYU on April 26th. (I think non-students must register in advance.)

Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha