Funny to me, regardless: A favorite gag of my writing life is the idea of humor-for-one – jokes I hide in prose that only I can get. The prose works for everyone, but the joke is there only for me. I do this for Cathleen, too, write jokes that only she and I can get. I’ll do it with other people, too, from time to time; sometimes they get it, sometimes not. But what’s funniest about humor-for-one is that I mostly write for my own ears alone, anyway. It’s all humor-for-one.
You might think I hate that, but I don’t. What I would hate would be to write something that is enthralling to anyone – or to everyone – but me. It’s plausible to me that this is why I hate almost everything I (start to (try to)) read: Because the author hates it, too, already, long before I got around to hating it.
Whatever. Each man to his own saints, but me, certainly, to mine. I’m rebuilding everything from the inside out, and that’s what I’m doing with fiction, too. I’m at war with narrative art as it’s been done since Cervantes, and with the drama since Aeschylus and before. That might as well be humor-for-one, too, as much as anyone else knows or cares.
Oh, well. My goal is not fame or fortune, but change. And the changes I’m setting in motion now, few and frail, won’t bear their fullest fruit for twenty more years. And the impact of my writing, if any, won’t start to show up until long after I’m dead.
All of my big goals are post-mortem, and my present-day challenge is to survive the nearly-universal indifference of people living now.
Too much of what matters comes to us by chance. Melville died in obscurity, forgotten by the few who had ever known of him. We have Catullus because one addle-pated monk convinced himself that a Roman-of-the-Romans was somehow a monotheist whose poetry must be preserved.
I should be so lucky.
And that’s where you come in. Yesterday was my birthday, and I had many sweet greetings. Mainly, I heard from people I know are paying attention to some or all of what I have to say, and I’m grateful for that, too. I know I’m hitting the target I’m aiming for, because some people are learning from me.
I vote for increasing our numbers. If you want to do something for me, for you and for everyone for my birthday – share the good news. All of Willie’s books are selling for 99¢, and Man Alive and Free Willie are both free, as is this weblog. If there’s something I’ve written that someone you know should read, please pass it along directly – one to one.
I want your kids and your neighbor’s kids, if I can get them. But more than them, I want their kids and their kids’ kids. When we’re all dead, my books, if they still exist, will be given to children, much as the adult novels of Mark Twain were was when I was young. Get me that far, and the rest of the world is mine to win.
Could that really happen? That’s up to you. But I was born yesterday, so I find it easy to believe.