Recently I watched a Youtube video of a programmer explaining programming memes (dude, writing that really makes me want to defend myself, but I decline), and this post kind of feels like that. If I just copy and paste the quotes without context, they probably won’t be funny. And if I explain them, they probably still won’t be funny.
But I’ll think they’re funny.
Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
I didn’t even love this book, but if anybody was to ask me what the saddest book I’ve ever read was (do people ask that?), this would be it. In school, we read multiple tragedies in a row (Oedipus, Hamlet, Death of a Salesman), but none of them are near as sad as Tess.
Which is why I’m surprised myself that a quote from this book is on this list. Actually, I’m basically always surprised when classics are funny. It makes me question if the author meant for it to be funny or if it’s because I’m reading it wrong.
Joan Durbeyfield [the mom] always managed to find consolation somewhere: “Well, as one of the genuine stock, she ought to make her way with ‘en, if she plays her trump card aright…”
[The dad] “What’s her trump card?
[The mom] “No, stupid; her face—as ’twas mine.”
This conversation is between Tess’s mom and dad, who at best are oblivious and foolish and at worst are insane and horrible. It’s funny because while Tess is truly beautiful and kind and innocent, the mom just really isn’t any of those things. But while Tess doesn’t realize her own goodness, her mom thinks she has goodness that doesn’t exist.
Wow, now that just sounds sad. I’m telling you, this is the most tragic book ever.
‘The Pandemic Shows Us the Genius of Supermarkets’ by Bianca Bosker
A good number of supermarkets have this thing called “slotting fees.” For example, if Annie’s wants to sell their cheddar bunnies and fruit snacks at Tom Thumb, the company has to pay $x to be put on the shelves.
But apparently it’s extremely taboo/discouraged/dangerous to talk about them because look at the lengths this woman took to protect her identity:
One woman, fearing retribution for testifying on the subject to a Senate committee in 1999, only did so while wearing a hood, hiding behind a screen, and having her voice scrambled.
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
“It’s not that exciting,” I say. “It’s like—I don’t even know. You guys are so freaking obsessed with everything I do. It’s like I can’t change my socks without someone mention it.”
“Ah,” says my dad. “So what you’re trying to say is that we’re really creepy.”
It’s the italicization that gets me.
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Raskolnikov is the protagonist in Crime and Punishment. I feel like he’s not supposed to be a character you like or dislike. I think he’s just supposed to make you think. But this is the one moment in the book where I like him a lot. It made me laugh the first time I read the book, and then when I had to read it again for school, it still made me laugh.
“But that’s not the point,” Raskolnikov interrupted with disgust. “It’s simply that whether you are right or wrong, we dislike you. We don’t want anything to do with you. We show you the door. Go out!”
Does it surprise you when classics are funny?
What’s the saddest book you’ve read?
What makes you laugh out loud the most? (Besides in-person human beings.)