Ta-Nehisi Coates makes a great point:
“[M]y readings of Jane Austen, and now Edith Wharton, have really taken me back to this old claim… that women aren’t funny. As an adult, probably the first author I found to be truly humorous was Zora Neale Hurston. Better people then me can probably cite a range of other women authors who used humor in their writing, but even in my own small forays it’s clear to me that they are there. Leaving aside the desire to say something provocative, if thin, I’m thinking that a large portion of this claim originates in shrinking the range of ‘funny.’…
Also part of this is on us, by which I mean people who love books. I don’t think many people today think of fiction, creative nonfiction or poetry as particularly funny genres.”
Read the whole thing.
He’s right. (About the literature thing. Well, I think he’s also right about the “women can be funny” thing, but I want to focus on this.)
People tend not to realize how much humor there really is in literature. One of the things that impressed me when I recently read the book Jane Eyre is how much wit there was in it. There are no “jokes” as such, but there is a great deal of humorous dialogue. Even the works of Thomas Hardy, which are almost always very dark in subject matter, contain many humorously ironic moments and witty use of language.