Think of Shapero instead as a kind of poetic Louis C.K. — the misery is part of the act. Yes, you’re supposed to laugh: “All I have coming in this / world is a joke that hits me later.” And like the best stand-up comedy routines, her poems have solid opening hooks, a finely wrought structure, and a resonance, a truth, beyond what is directly expressed.
Hemingway’s fame rests on his tragic romances of love and death; his evocative stories crafted in spare prose; his vivid war reporting and travel books. He was not a comic writer, and when he tried to be funny he could be heavy-handed, as in his parody The Torrents of Spring, or embarrassingly arch, as in the tedious conversations with the Old Lady in the otherwise fascinating Death in the Afternoon. Yet his most underrated quality was his lively sense of humor.
“I had the goal of writing a feminist novel with a first-person male narrator. Karl is not the most dudely of dudes, of course, but I liked the idea of a man casting a kind eye on someone like Lena, who stopped caring what everyone thought years ago and is just trying to make it through her day without crying. I liked the idea of having the male gaze on a woman most men would ignore or revile, with him actually admiring and loving her for her positive qualities, for who she is and her strength, which goes largely unnoticed in her life.”
“I do like that people read my writing as Southern and not just as that of a bland white person. But I feel like if you are a writer who’s Southern, your sensibilities should probably just be organic. I grew up poor in Florida—I have a very specific sort of family—and the characters in those stories are deeply embedded in my story, and in who I am. I feel like Southerners deal with different situations and circumstances than people in other parts of the world—we have such distinct issues with poverty and social issues that don’t get addressed because you’re dealing with crazy belief systems.”
“It took me ten years to figure out how to write funny the way I could talk funny. Doing improv or standup or making people laugh at a party or an open-mic night—that kind of humor came naturally to me, but writing funny was so hard. I struggled with that balance between seriousness and silliness—I didn’t want to write myself into a corner, where I could only be silly or lighthearted. I felt like there had to be a way to have a legitimate mind and still make readers laugh, to say earnestly true things, and not just ironically true things.”