The Faithful Hound

Friday, December 01, 2006

How droll

Iain Hollingshead, the winner of the British Literary Review's 14th annual Bad Sex in Fiction Award, accepted the 'honor' very gracefully. His novel Twentysomething won the award for its dubious erotic imagery, including the line "...and everything is pure white as we’re lost in a commotion of grunts and squeaks, flashing unconnected images and explosions of a million little particles", as well as a reference to "bulging trousers".
Mr Hollingshead commented "I was delighted to be the youngest ever winner of this prestigious award and hope to win it every year. I even got to meet Courtney Love, although I was disappointed that dinner for two wasn't part of the prize. Instead, I have an alabaster statuette of Hermes' foot on my mantelpiece. I am very proud."
Thank God for the British. Their self deprecating sense of humor, good sportsmanship and general refusal to take themselves too seriously is something that the rest of us can learn a lot from.
Can you picture an aspiring Indian author's reaction if he had the same distinction bestowed upon him? I cannot imagine it being a very pretty sight. Our thin skin and self important posturing deny us the pleasure of laughing at ourselves.
A recent article in the Economist spoke of the stark differences in the personal ads placed in the US as compared with those in the UK. The American versions spoke of 'physically fit, good looking bankers who enjoyed long walks on the beach' while the Brits (who are terrified of making self serving observations that are not ironic) usually poked fun at themselves while making subtle, humor wrapped references to their own virtues.
The dearth of good humor probably has its roots in the media. In India comedy was historically used to entertain the masses, while the upper crust believed that laughter was undignified. As a result comedy in Indian cinema or television rarely ascended the plane of Mehmood or Tun-Tun making funny faces as they slipped on banana peels.
American media did once have a decent sense of humor but, as Hollywood went commercial, the search for higher revenues resulted in the creation of products that appealed to the lowest common denominator. The difference between the US and Europe when it comes to comedy today is the same as the difference between the chocolates across both continents. American chocolate is much more in-your-face than its understated European equivalent. It is mass produced and goes with a 'sweeter the better' philosophy. A hint of bitter is too much of an acquired taste for companies to cater.
Does anyone else feel that mainstream American entertainment has completely lost its subtle edge? Was Rodney Dangerfield the last comic in this country who realized that saying nasty things about yourself is much funnier than saying nasty things about other people? And could someone please tell Alanis Rain-on-your-wedding-day Morissette that she has no clue what the word irony means?


  • At 2:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    well the brits are also responsible for Benny hill so... the americans have arrested development, family guy, and if you prefer you humor more twisted- strangers with candy or wet hot american summer.

    Its not all "king of queens". though totally agree on the chocolate thing.

  • At 7:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    mt, by the last line, i had laughed out loud. nice segregation. i think it is true that indians find it hard to laugh at themselves. always refreshing to meet one who can do that. chocolates - no comparison. europe, all the way. mainstream entertainment everywhere is losing its subtle edge. and since i'm feeling cynical this morning - people everywhere are losing their subtle edge.

  • At 5:18 AM, Blogger sattva said…

    nice! like kundalini, the final touch had me chuckling away.

    also enjoyed yr last post.

  • At 6:26 AM, Blogger Tabula Rasa said…

    bah. humbug.

  • At 6:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    tr - :D

  • At 10:06 AM, Blogger MockTurtle said…

    @bm: To be honest, I haven't watched strangers with candy or wet hot american summer. I will look out for them.
    I was thinking more about the new wave of supposedly funny movies that are unleashed on us every summer. Adam Sandler, Rob Schneider, Jack Black, Ben Stiller etc.

    @kundalini: I couldn't agree more. Perhaps lives are becoming so hectic that folks don't like to think when they are being entertained.

    @sattva: Thanks! We aim to please.

    @TR: Christmas spirit finally catching up with ya prof?

  • At 11:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    chocolates....yes European one win hands down!

    Ben Stiller et al - toilet humour no?
    And no one can come up with a funnier T.V. serial than Yes Minister!
    arrested development was fantastic but

  • At 11:26 PM, Blogger scout said…

    heehee. i need to add this to my list of 'why-brit-rock-band-boys-make-better-lovers-than-frat-boys'

    i once knew a frat boy who used to fart for fun and thought he was supremely funny cuz he insisted on calling me 'dawg'.

  • At 4:12 PM, Blogger Revealed said…

    @mt: Pls pls pls if some1 ds tell Alanis that, can you record the response and share? I soooo wanna know what she was thinking when she wrote that! As for self deprecation I think the sad part is we desis self deprecate without humor! While we don't have the brash self confidence of the Americans, we sadly don't have the tongue-in-cheek humor of the Brits, leaving us in the awful poz of having to be totally seriously humble! Ye Gods!

  • At 8:27 PM, Blogger Salil said…

    Nice. You've summed up a lot of my earlier thoughts on the matter, and far more eloquently than I.

    I've been watching a good deal of Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister off DVDs in the last couple of weeks. The contrast between that (or BlackAdder or Only Fools & Horses) and the nonsense I get on most of the local TV channels or the tripe Hollywood's been putting out for the last decade or so couldn't be more stark.

    As for the chocolate, fully agree. Too much milk, too much sugar, not enough cocoa. Give me some good European (or New Zealand - I've found a couple of exceptional sources there) chocolate over most of the stuff in the local supermarkets here.

  • At 8:08 AM, Blogger MockTurtle said…

    Is the NYT reading my blog?

    @anon: I agree... but what about Python? Different genres I suppose.

    @scout: The types you hang out with, I tell you. Did he make you at least pull his finger first?

    @revealed: Spot on regarding desi subservience. We're not pretending, we're just insecure.

    @salil: New Zealand chocolates? Give me some names. Chocolates are my one major weakness (ok, among my many weaknesses) and I love new stuff.

  • At 5:17 PM, Blogger Szerelem said…

    hmmm...I am so sure I commented on this post! where'd my comment disappear :(
    Interesting article from the NYTimes. I was in the viewers gallery at the House of Commons yesterday and interestingly enough it was defense that was being discussed. And like the NYT mentioned the remarks by Blair and Jack Straw to cut the opposition to size were terribly hilarious. It was better entertainment than I have had in eons really

  • At 6:34 PM, Blogger MockTurtle said…

    @szerelem: Oh it's the whole Beta Blogger thingy, they marked you as anonymous in your first comment. Google had better get their act together.
    Viewer's galllery at the House of Commons? Wow, that must have been fun. Every time I stumble across Blair holding forth on TV, I'm hooked. They have a different class of politician up there.

  • At 1:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Yikes! I commented too y'day! Neway re: chocs, my personal fav is nething from Lindt (n some might say too much milk, too much sugar and too lil cocoa but that would only mean that they hadn't tried the Lindt bitter, almost as gud as German bitter :D)

  • At 1:03 PM, Anonymous Sowmya Rao said…

    This isn't a comment. Merely a question. Completely unrelated too.

    How _can_ you like 'The Old man and the sea' ??

    Why _do_ you like it?

  • At 11:08 AM, Blogger MockTurtle said…

    @revealed: If you like Lindt bitter, try ghirardelli. It's the best American bitter chocolate I have had.

    @sowmya: what's_with_the_underscores? As for the Old Man and the Sea; doesn't a sad and tired old loser venturing out into the vast unknown, fighting horrible odds and doing it all with an "oh well what the hell" attitude throttle your engines?

  • At 12:33 PM, Anonymous sowmya rao said…

    _underscores_ are meant to show that those words are to be italicised.
    Like the way it works in Gtalk.

    And to your question - actually no. I suppose thats why 'American beauty' didn't have that much of an impact on me either.

  • At 1:17 PM, Blogger MockTurtle said…

    @sowmya: _now_ I get it!
    Though I'm not sure if American Beauty merits comparison to Old Man. A lifelong passive-aggressive pushover with a midlife crisis who's trying to nail his daughter's friend is not nearly as admirable as a man who has lived an exciting life and fallen on bad times who decides to go for glory one last time by catching the biggest goddam marlin anyone has ever seen.

  • At 4:01 PM, Anonymous Revealed said…

    I have to admit that Old Man and the Sea caught my imagination a lot more than American Beauty. The latter was yet another reminder of the world we live in while the former is I think a beacon for the world it might have been. I apologise for being maudlin :P

  • At 5:43 PM, Blogger Red said…

    Actually Anirudh Bahal's Bunker 13 won the prize in 2003 :-),6109,1099417,00.html

    Extract from Bunker 13

    She's taking off her blouse. It's on the floor. Her breasts are placards for the endomorphically endowed. In spite of yourself a soft whistle of air escapes you. She's taking off her trousers now. They are a heap on the floor. Her panties are white and translucent. You can see the dark hair sticking to them inside. There's a design as well. You gasp.

    'What's that?' you ask. You see a designer pussy. Hair razored and ordered in the shape of a swastika. The Aryan denominator..

  • At 8:15 PM, Blogger MockTurtle said…

    @revealed: Very true and not maudlin at all.

    @red: Phenomenal stuff. Goes to prove that Indians are as uncomfortable with sex as the Brits.

  • At 4:44 PM, Blogger Revealed said…

    Y'know your post on Altruism and Evolution? If I wanted to link to that post alone, how would I go about it? I tried to find a seperate URL and I couldn't! Is this just me being totally computer-ignorant?

  • At 6:55 PM, Blogger Revealed said…

    Never mind, I found out how to do it. Ingenious, heh!

  • At 10:17 AM, Blogger MockTurtle said…

    @revealed: Glad to be of (no) help.


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