A couple of weeks ago, I posted about the death of one of my heroes, John Clarke.
John Clarke was a master of satire – possibly the finest satirist Australia (or New Zealand, where he originally came from) has ever seen. From his humorous political interviews to his reports on the fictitious sport of farnarkeling, he was both side-splittingly hilarious but also incredible sharp and astute in the way he could take a knife to society – the true art of any satirist.
This got me thinking more generally about the satire, and particularly about the kind of satire that I like to write. Yes, it’s true. I’ve outed myself as a satirist (or at least a wannabe one). Pretty much everything I’ve written has some sort of satirical element – even the picture books. I try not to make it too obvious. I like to think the stories hold up as stories on their own without the satire. But for readers who like to dig a bit deeper, I try to build in multiple meanings, and usually that’s where the satire is placed.
It struck me, as I considered most of the satire out there, that it’s generally pretty dark. It paints a picture of humanity at its worst, where people tend not to have any redeeming features. It’s pretty mean spirited, holding no punches in order to take down the objects of its spite.
That’s a long way from the satire of John Clarke. Sure he could hit his targets pretty hard. I imagine some of the subjects of his wit might not feel quite so well disposed towards him. But generally speaking, there was very little mean spirited about the way he wielded his satirical scalpel. There was even something uplifting about it. It might have helped you see the stupidity and spitefulness and greed that can be such a part of life, but because of the lightness of his touch, you could also get a sense of how there was more to the world than all those negatives, and that somewhere, somehow there was hope for all of us.
I’d like to think that the satire I produce is similar to that. While happy to admit that next to the brilliance of John Clarke I’m only an amateur, I’m always aiming for a kind of satire with a light touch. I don’t want to shy away from the tricky issues. I’d like to hold up a window to some of the worst aspects of human nature on show. But I don’t want that to be the only picture I paint. I really believe there’s more to us humans than the bad bits and I want to highlight all the good bits as well.
I know I’ve got some heights to aspire to. I suppose the only thing I can do is start climbing.
PS – writing update
A couple of weeks ago, I posted about how the disruption of starting a new job had interfered with my regular writing routine. The good news is this week I’ve finally knuckled down and forced myself to get back to writing. I’ve done 1000 words in the last two days. I know it’s not much, and it’s possible they’re not even very good words. But to me, getting back into some sort of writing routine is a big step in the right direction.
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