I wrote three stories recently and sent them to my agent Adriann and my friend Courtney. Describing the three shorts stories, I told them, “The first one is dark, the next is sort of funny, and the third is darker.” I thought I was being accurate.
But after reading the first story, Adriann and Courtney said that it was sad. A little dark, but mostly sad. I said, “Don’t worry, the next one is funnier, not so heavy.”
A few days later, Courtney called me and said, “That second story wasn’t funny at all. It was dark dark.”
“Really?” I said.
“Yeah, like Twin Peaks dark.”
“Oh,” I said. “I thought it was funny.”
Maybe that was just him, his reaction, and maybe he related it to something personal, something that wasn’t funny in his own life. But then Adriann emailed and wrote, “This second story made me sad. It wasn’t funny. It made me think about my dad.”
And I said, “Okay, um…I don’t think you guys should even read the third story. Just leave that one.”
Obviously, I have no idea what’s funny anymore, or my sense of funny is so skewed, become so dark, that I’ve lost the thread of common, decent humor. I’m not even going to say what I thought was funny in the second story beyond the fact that one “funny” scene involves an arm getting ripped off in a car accident. In the right context, that’s funny, right?
I’m learning that if a person reads Cormac McCarthy’s Outer Dark and Blood Meridian, The Stories of Breese D’J Pancake, Harry Crews’ Feast of Snakes, and Lidia Yuknavitch’s The Chronology of Water, he’s going to develop a pretty dark sense of humor.