There is a narratorial authority that comes with laying down a line. We’ve discussed this haven’t we? In the last post I believe. I’m looking back on my older writing and seeing how immature it is….
I finished Go Tell It On The Mountain, which is very maturely written, and highly serious. The high seriousness is something I’ve also mentioned in the past. I think it was T.S. Eliot who described it as a quality, hold on lemme see if I can find it…nope it was Matthew Arnold. He said Chaucer did not have it but Milton and Shakespeare (especially in the tragedies) did.
The high seriousness makes a work more mature. Religious questions of love and evil are serious, which is why Baldwin’s first novel was such a hit. The high seriousness, I think is synonymous with power. It’s hard to find a “funny” work powerful.
This is important to remember as a writer. Your novel should be as appropriate for an 80 year old as it is for a 21 year old, no matter the subject matter. And you can have funny, or better yet, ironic moments in a serious work. But you don’t see Hamlet laughing.
The 19th century telegraphed. It wants its musty literary ideals back. Many of the great novels of the 20th century are comedic. E.g. Ulysses, and pretty much anything by Nabokov, Vonnegut, Gaddis, Pynchon, Barth, Roth, Wallace, et al.
I think that these authors retain their power by discussing serious subjects in a comedic way. Besides, much of their comedy is ironic. Let’s do comedy right, by embracing a more Romantic joie de vivre, eh?