Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Should I be insulted?

A Pennsylvania based library (not the local one I patronize) recently held a fund-raising event featuring what they called “Bad Romance” books. According to the news report the event “had all of the looseness of a cabaret show”. Excerpts of books were read to an audience, many of whom later contributed to the library’s efforts to build a bigger and better library.

I don’t know WHOSE books were selected as “some of the most poorly-written passages ever published in the English language” or if the authors chosen were even aware of their notoriety. I have no idea if any of my books were part of this exhibition, so I really don’t know how I would feel about it if one was read. Would I be insulted that my hard work was, well, insulted? Or would I chuckle and brag “Hey, at least somebody is reading my book, YAY!”?

Parodies are a popular thing in movies and songs; think of well-known parodies like AIRPLANE with its non-stop laughs based on the original air-disaster movie AIRPORT or think of "Weird Al" Yankovic whose song EAT IT poked fun at Michael Jackson’s BEAT IT. Professional literary organizations have  often made fun of words; the annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest challenges writers to come up with the WORST opening lines. “It was a dark and stormy night” has often been referred to as an example of a bad opening line, more for its clichéd use than its actual literary contribution.

“A parody (/ˈpærədi/); also called a spoof, send-up, take-off, lampoon, play on (something), caricature, or joke, is a work created to imitate, make fun of, or comment on an original work—its subject, author, style, or some other target—by means of satiric or ironic imitation. As the literary theorist Linda Hutcheon puts it, "parody ... is imitation, not always at the expense of the parodied text."” (Wikipedia) So is imitation truly the sincerest form of flattery?

Would I be flattered if one of my works were used in jest? I would assume my feelings might be colored by which of my books was being made light of. A few of my novels were written (in my intentions anyway) as more than love stories, for example two of them try to look seriously at the incidence of sexual assault, another is meant to open the conversation about hate and prejudice. In the end I guess most of my work is intended to create thought as well as entertain. So would it be entertainment to use my words to make people laugh? I DON’T THINK I would be insulted…

A library spokesperson is quoted in the news article, “Even though this event is incredibly irreverent, it’s still about literacy. It’s saying that you can still have fun with words and that not everything in literature has to be serious. Not to sound cliché, but the library is what you make of it, and you have to be the one to utilize it.” This is one of several fundraising efforts to build a bigger and more complete library, “We are definitely limited in our capacity, but not in our imagination.”

Personally, I think this is a NOVEL idea!

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