Celebrating Our 10th Blog-O-Versary

05/08 – Robin Weaver

Monday, April 12, 2021

Laugh in the Face of Danger by Eleri Grace

 I was a little stumped by this month's prompt for a bit. I love novels that can inspire a range of emotions in a reader, including side-splitting laughter, but I would probably have a hard time hitting that humorous tone even if I weren't writing in the WW2 genre. Yet, while many of my favorite authors who write humor very effectively include romance authors Kristan Higgins, Tracy Brogan, and Josie Silver, one of the funniest books I've ever read was the improbably humorous WW2 classic, Catch 22 by Joseph Heller. 

Of course, many would deem it dark humor. But Heller's mastery of satire is unparalleled. Though many of the compiled "funniest lines" you might see online are humorous on their own, context adds immeasurably. So I do highly recommend reading the entire novel to get the full effect of Heller's genius. 

“You have a morbid aversion to dying. You probably resent the fact that you're at war and might get your head blown off any second."

"I more than resent it, sir. I'm absolutely incensed."

"You have deep-seated survival anxieties. And you don't like bigots, bullies, snobs, or hypocrites. Subconsciously there are many people you hate."

"Consciously, sir, consciously," Yossarian corrected in an effort to help. "I hate them consciously."

"You're antagonistic to the idea of being robbed, exploited, degraded, humiliated, or deceived. Misery depresses you. Ignorance depresses you. Persecution depresses you. Violence depresses you. Corruption depresses you. You know, it wouldn't surprise me if you're a manic-depressive!"

"Yes, sir. Perhaps I am."

"Don't try to deny it."

"I'm not denying it, sir," said Yossarian, pleased with the miraculous rapport that finally existed between them. "I agree with all you've said.”

Catch 22, Joseph Heller 

I am in the midst of writing my third Clubmobile Girls novel, set in India and Burma, and my hero will find himself recruited into dangerous search-and-rescue work in the Burma jungles. I've found a memoir titled "Hell is So Green" by William Diebold to be particularly helpful in my quest to provide my hero with plenty of challenges. Diebold jumped into the jungles and mountains of Burma a number of times to help lead downed airmen back to an American base --- a serious business. Yet, his memoir crackles with dry and self-deprecating wit, and consistently humorous exchanges with the pilots who maintained communication with him after his jumps and during his treks through dangerous countryside. In this instance, Diebold's parachute hung up in a tree, and a native boy helped cut the lines so he could reach the ground. When he made it back to the supplies the pilot had dropped, Diebold got on the radio: "Just once, old man, just once I wish one of you jokers would drop me on the ground. I've been in trees so much lately I feel like a bird." 

Humor can be found in the darkest and lowest of times, and yes, as Lion King's Simba confidently declared, in the face of danger. As we navigate our way back to more normalcy in the coming months, I hope you all find more and more occasion for laughter and humor. 

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You can find my Clubmobile Girls novels on Amazon


Judith Ashley said...

Eleri, your commitment to research is why I've told my cousins and other people I know who are of an age about your books. I do believe that because we did not have bombs falling on our cities, we don't appreciate what our soldiers dealt. I'm looking forward to learning about WWII in Burma and India through your work.

PS: I'm watching "My Grandparent's War" on PBS. I highly recommend it. And I'm also watching "Atlantic Crossing" another aspect of WWII although at least at this point the US is not involved.

Eleri Grace said...

Judith, thank you so much for promoting my work to people who love history and WWII in particular -- I so appreciate it!

For this next book, I'm actually going to include a prefatory note since most readers will have no idea that Americans served in India and Burma during WW2.

Ooh, thanks for the tip about the PBS Special -- I will look for it.

Maggie Lynch said...

You are so right about satire and humor. Often people in the very worst of circumstances is satire to cope. Soldiers especially. If you can't find humor when everything is on the line, it would be very difficult or impossible to continue the mission.

WWII is an unknown war to so many. For people my age, born in the early 1950s, those who had been in the war really didn't want to talk about it. And it wasn't history yet by the time I graduated high school, which meant it wasn't really taught in school at all. Those the age of my children, 35 and 38, have no memories of the stories and likely their grandparents were gone by the time they may have had questions.

In addition, so much of the geography has changed and country names since then. Yugoslavia, Czechoslavakia, Ceylon, Tibet. Even though Burma is still pronounced the same by the Burmese, to the rest of the world they are Myanmar. It's hard for me to keep up with, I can't image how hard it is for younger people who might read your novel and wonder where these countries exist on a map.

Anytime you can add context and additional history is a service to your books and to those who wish to learn more.