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Author Topic: Humor in the Casual Vacancy  (Read 1649 times)

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October 24, 2012, 05:08:30 PM

HealerOne

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Humor in the Casual Vacancy

"It's a cheery book," joked Rowling. "Clearly a comedy … good beach read."
But she added: "I genuinely think, and this may sit oddly ...  that it is a humorous book.
"Some of the humour may be rather dark in places ..."   
- JK Rowling in an interview with Mark Lawson on the occasion of the launch of her book The Casual Vacancy.

“…the intent of black comedy, therefore, is often for the audience to experience both laughter and discomfort, sometimes simultaneously.” - Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_comedy )

Many of the reviews of The Casual Vacancy categorized this book as a ‘dark comedy’ or a ‘black comedy’. Others saw no comedy at all in its pages. JKR, as stated above, feels that the book has elements of dark humor. Now that you have had a chance to read the entire book and maybe even read it twice – what do you think about the book’s humor?

Do you feel the humor is general, or more specific … or typical British?

In describing the humor you found – would you consider it ‘dark’ (black) humor?

What are your favorite parts when JKR’s humor shows through?

Does the humor you found within the book ‘save it’ for you, or do you feel the humor was displaced and should not have been part of the book?


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November 13, 2012, 07:01:35 PM
Reply #1

Evreka

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I am actually not sure I found any humour at all? Granted I haven't yet reread it, and I might find it then, I guess, but in the first read it evaded me. I guess some of us have reread it by now, though. Did you find it more humorous during the second time?

Also, I'm not sure what British humour looks like? Do any of you Brits find any British humour in it that you could describe?
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November 14, 2012, 04:05:59 PM
Reply #2

HealerOne

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Thank you for saying that you didn't see the humor in this book, Evreka! I was a bit flummoxed when I kept seeing and hearing interviews of JKR saying that she thought there was humor in the story. I guess as one is reading the book those humorous parts are drowned (Sorry for the use of that word) out by the overriding darkness of it all.

However, one incident did strike me as amusing on my first read and that was the pronouncement of Krystal as a child saying, "Andiprice iz 'avin' a lurycacshuun!" For some reason that fractured way of putting together the very serious circumstance unfolding before Krystal's eyes was both sweet and funny. It's a touching look at how children 'hear' what we as adults are saying. At the young age at which she said this, she obviously didn't quite 'get' what the words were, but she certainly 'got' what they meant! I think the humor I was seeing was very understated in that situation - perhaps that is what JKR meant? 

I too would wonder if our British readers would have comments on the humor they got from the book ...
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November 14, 2012, 09:44:52 PM
Reply #3

merrythought

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I had a tough time experiencing the humor, too.  I think the issue I have with The Casual Vacancy is that the sadness and tragedy are not really balanced by the humor; I see the comedy as a grace note to the novel, not an integral component of its style.  That said, there were a few moments which did strike me as darkly funny, such as the scene with Shirley and Howard's daughter, Patricia, offhandedly reveals to the teens that she saw her dad and Maureen in a really, really compromising position, and then she unceremoniously gets into her car and just drives off, leaving the kids stunned and revolted.  The other one which immediately comes to mind is Barry's funeral, with the playing of the wildly inappropriate song; by contrast, there's no way I can see the song's recurrence at Krystal's funeral in any humorous light; there, it was just pathetic.  But then, injecting humor into that kind of scene just wouldn't work; so I do think it's clever of JKR to use the song in two contrasting tones.
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November 15, 2012, 05:36:32 AM
Reply #4

paint it Black

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I agree with merrythought that the humor in this book appears to be more of an occasional highlight than an integral part of its makeup, and I agree with everyone else that the instances of humor are few and far between.  One that I remember was Samantha's obsession with her daughter's boy band, though that became less humorous and more pathetic as the story went on.  Another favorite is when Sukhvinder remembers how Krystal psychs out the rowing team of upper-crust St. Anne's by being wildly rude to them, while at the same time uniting the team with her humor and by how brashly confident she seems.  That was really a bittersweet moment, as the usually timid but newly-courageous Sukhvinder wishes that she could be more like the late Krystal.

Cuppa is discussing Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman.  Please join us!
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November 17, 2012, 12:45:48 AM
Reply #5

Marielle

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I think the humour part had to be mostly taken satirically. There wasn't much direct humour, but I think there was a lot of caricatural traits in the characters, things we see in people we know in real life that strikes out and makes them "funny" in some way, or that we use to tease them. Except, here in the books the characters had just too many of them to make them "nice" people to be with. But I guess if she didn't want to have 20 more characters to make them individually less flawed, it would have made the book even harder to get into.
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January 17, 2013, 03:20:04 AM
Reply #6

Maraudingdon

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As much as I love this book I am flummoxed by the description as a black comedy.

There is nothing funny or satirical about this novel. It's tough.
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January 17, 2013, 07:00:05 PM
Reply #7

Marielle

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I agree it is dark and it is far from being a comedy, but if you start with the idea that humour don't necessary mean funny, then yes there are some element that is usually found in humour of it in it, like the use caricatural characters. I am not saying nobody is that weird in real life, because there are people like that, but there are not that many caricatural people in one person's entourage. Here is the number of them, that makes them caricatures.

For example  Samantha. The one who fantasize about a band player. On it's own, viewed from the outside, it can easily be funny to look at a slightly drunk mature woman appreciating some "eye candy", but in the ends it totally fails at being funny. Not because she has to hide to appreciate the eye candy, it could still be funny to watch this woman hiding to look at a sexy young man,  it fails because she feels guilty about it. This is where a situation, which contains elements found in humour, fails at being funny. Where elements found in humour is used to vehicle a message. And that is very much present often in the book.
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January 17, 2013, 10:17:58 PM
Reply #8

merrythought

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Marielle, I agree with your points about humor and caricature.  In dark comedy there is always a question of, is this funny, or not?  I've always thought the viewer or reader is meant to ask that question of themselves, and that the answer depends upon each person's own attitudes and experiences.  I don't mean to get off topic, but has anyone seen the film "American Beauty"?  I think of it because seeing that was the first time I was exposed to "black comedy," and I remember being struck by this mode of storytelling; also that I felt both amused and unsettled, and was trying to decide if one of these reactions was stronger than the other. 

In TCV, I remember being so embarrassed for Samantha over her teen-like behavior; but even as I was cringing (I think my toes actually curled), I recognized how those moments were, from a different perspective, humorous. 
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