The Monster In The Hollows, CSFF Blog Tour Day 2 – Or, Humor Makes It Fun

The CSFF Blog Tour for Andrew Peterson’s The Monster In The Hollows (Rabbit Room Press) is in full swing. Before I address today’s topic, let me mention a couple notable posts I’ve seen:

  • Nicole White wrote an excellent review of the first book in The Wingfeather Saga, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness — not just your quicky summary with an endorsement. She gives you a real flavor of the book.
  • One of CSFF’s newest members, Marzabeth, shares a note from Andrew Peterson to explain why she is a supporter of his writing.

You can see the entire list of participants and links to their posts at the end of my first article, The Monster In The Hollows, CSFF Blog Tour Day 1 – Or Grey Fangs And The Church.

One of the things that endears readers to Andrew Peterson’s books is his use of humor. Some bloggers have called The Windfeather Saga or The Monster In The Hollows in particular, light. I believe that’s an allusion to the humor which makes them fun and which tempers the very serious themes running through them.

The most obvious use of humor is what I call “boy humor” because, well, boys primarily enjoy these jokes, though men with the hearts of boys undoubtedly love them too. “Jokes” does not mean to suggest that The Wingfeather Saga is filled with knock-knock jokes or tales of chickens crossing various roads. Rather the characters themselves do or say things that are funny as part of how they live life and do what they do.

Perhaps the humor in On The Edge Of The Dark Sea Of Darkness seemed more self-aware, what with the various footnotes and appendixes. Still, there were places where boys were being boys, enjoying the humor that boys share with each other. The Monster In The Hollows utilizes that type of humor too. Here’s an example:

[Oscar] spat, but instead of a nice, dense, seaworthy glob plopping into the sea, it was a spray of white spittle, some of which landed on Podo’s arm.

“Keep practicin’, old friend,” Podo said, wiping it off. “Make sure ye get the bubbles out before ye spit. And remember, it helps if ye snort. Improves the consistency. Watch.”

Podo reared back and snorted so long and loud that the whole crew took notice. They watched with admiration as Podo launched a dollop of spit that sailed an astonishing distance before splooshing into the waves. The Kimerans nodded and muttered their approval.

Podo wiped his mouth. “Sorry, lass. Ye have to seize the teachable moments, you know. Carry on.”

This kind of in-story humor combined with wonderful word inventiveness, much of which came to the forefront in the middle of the novel when the Igiby/Wingfeather children were becoming acquainted with the Guildling Hall and Institute for Hollish Learning — school (“Hollish” being the adjective used for all things related to the Hollows). Here’s a flavor:

When they had … settled [Leeli] in the puppy wing of the houndry, [Guildmadam] Olumphia Groundwich continued the tour with Janner and Kalmar. She showed them the juicery … Then they visited the rockwright class, the bookbindery (which Janner especially liked), the boatery, the cookery (which Kalmar especially liked), and the needlery, where one learned to make dresses and quilts (which both boys especially disliked).

“Your father loved to sail, or so I’ve heard,” Olumphia said. “I’d show you the sailery, but it’s held at the waterfront and is reserved for our oldest students.”

Later the children discover that part of their day will be spent in P. T. or “Pummelry Training. It’s where everybody’s racing and wrestling and punching.”

Later still when Janner and Kalmar join the Durgan Guild, they receive their first lesson in sneakery.

And then there is Oscar and the “indibnible honor” he had of meeting Bonifer, the once adviser to the king.

On the word play goes, each alteration not enough to disguise the meaning and just enough to make the word more interesting and noticeable. Eventually I found myself imitating wordsmithery and commented on someone’s site about bloggery or some similar thing. All that fun has a way of spilling out. 😀

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

Lessons on Story from Harry Potter

I wish now I’d read Shadowmancer so that I could intelligently compare it with the Harry Potter books. I think that would be instructive in discussing “story.”

Yesterday I listed three essentials I think good stories all have. But some do more. Perhaps all do more, just not the same exact thing.

Our commenters have mentioned a couple things some good stories have that make them good. One tool is humor. Without a doubt, J. K. Rowling brought a keen sense of humor into the stories, whether in her description of Harry’s muggle relatives or in the shenanigans of some of the characters, including the ghosts or pictures or moving staircases. She played with her world. Took realistically flavored jellybeans, for example, and gave them the potential of tasting like all kinds of unpleasant things.

The humor actually blends with one of the essentials—surprise. Rowling’s world is anything but predictable, even when people draw parallels with British boarding schools. She has created the unusual twist that adds a newness, an irony, and therefore humor.

Which brings up the second means by which an author can contribute to a good story. Rowling gives details such that the reader is transported to this other place. Granted, since the movies have come out, part of this “specific place” is either enhanced or hindered, depending on your reading experience. What can’t be denied is that Rowling gave the moviemakers the details to work with. I can’t recall an invention the movie people added to enhance the world, though there probably are some.

The point is, Rowling’s world is innovative, and it is textured. And it is delivered to the reader along with the action. There’s no slowing down to give all the details. Some are dribbled along here and others added in there. She doesn’t compartmentalize her prose into description sections and action sections, at least not in a way that’s apparent to me.

As I mentioned, I’m reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire right now, and I’m especially impressed with the way Rowling “recharacterizes” the characters who appeared in the first three books. Of course, she’s writing from the omniscient POV, which gives a little more leeway for an author to tell things the character would already know. Still, she reminds readers of who is who and what went on before without breaking stride.

All that to say, good stories often have rich settings.

I’ll look at more components of good stories next time. Feel free to add your thoughts, too.

Published in: on July 18, 2007 at 12:33 pm  Comments (3)  

Tribulation House and Satire

I finished reading Tribulation House this morning. I have to say, the last hundred pages were jam packed with action. The pace really picked up. Two things crossed my mind (well, a few more than two, but these particular ones I wanted to mention by way of a review add): the comic book feel lessened in the last hundred pages and my interest soared.

In my thinking, the characters started behaving in a more realistic way. I still had problems with the central character because I thought his self-absorbed actions were over the top as the author brought the book near its climax (for those of you who have read it, think ignoring his son), but the other characters seemed deeper.

In some ways, it felt almost as if author Chris Well abandoned the satire at that point for the sake of the story. Was this a good thing?

I’m not one to judge I don’t think. I haven’t read a lot of satire for the main reason that I don’t see it as an effective tool. As Heather pointed out in her comment to the TH review, most readers react to satire based on whether or not they are the brunt of the joke or not. If satire is aiming to make its target self-aware, I think it fails. What it does is make the target feel offended … not a particularly effective way to bring about change.

But I have another objection to satire when it comes to Christians using it, and this is the point I was making in my review. To satirize basically is to poke fun at. I don’t see this as something the Bible advocates. If a Christian is sinning, Scripture lays down some specifics for how to confront that, but poking fun doesn’t seem to be part of the process.

When it comes to Christians dealing with people who say they are Christians but are not, I think the issue is even more serious, if possible. In Tribulation House we have just such a scenario. The reverend in question was actually a false teacher, since he was clearly advocating something the Bible warns against. Should we poke fun at false teaching?

I suggest by poking fun at something that is sinful, we actually soften it. We move it from the category of egregious, atrocious, Thou-Shalt-Not to the category of brainless, frivolous, what-were-you-thinking. To me, you don’t poke fun at people like abortion doctors. That’s horrific, abominable. To make a joke out of such an individual doesn’t point out the extent of his or her error. In fact, it may even desensitize readers to the horrors.

So with false teaching. We Christians should not think a preacher standing in a pulpit espousing the untrue as true is merely imprudent or dimwitted. It is sin—appalling, heinous, inexcusable.

Maybe the real problem is that the church no longer views sin in that light.

– – –

We have some results from yesterday’s tags. You might want to check out Donita Paul‘s eight random things. Or Jason Joyner‘s. (He’s such a good sport). Others who were tagged (but not by me) who have some fascinating facts to share include Sharon Hinck, Karen Hancock (beware—she’s a rule-breaker! 😀 ), and Becca Johnson. So now I’m thinking of another eight people I’d like to tag … 😎

Published in: on May 8, 2007 at 11:09 am  Comments (5)  
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