Critique of pure comedy

“Beauty and laughter are pleasures, but they aren’t just an escape from constant sorrow. They are real but otherworldly; we can’t control their coming and going. They are glimpses of Ithaca, of the home we seek, of the fellowship which allows us to survive and prosper. That’s why they are so important to our social order, and I have to assume it’s why the Greeks put comedies at the heart of their civic life.

“I’ve read that the writers who competed in the festivals of Dionysus had to compose four plays. The first three were tragedies, but the last had to be a comedy. According to this recipe tragedy occupies much of our time, but comedy has the last word. The two forms work together to celebrate the life force that Dionysus represents. This is how I understand the relationship of tragedy and comedy.”

Ben Tarnoff: Mark Twain and the Bohemians

“Author Ben Tarnoff discusses Mark Twain, Bret Harte, and other literary notables who lived in San Francisco in the mid-19th century, and how the western frontier experience influenced a new way of writing. Twain and his fellow literati make up Tarnoff’s new book ‘The Bohemians: Mark Twain and the San Francisco Writers Who Reinvented American Literature.’ He sits down with Piya Chattopadhyay.”

This is the World as We Have Made It

In my poetry I am concerned with finding the relationships between what we call the “real” world and that other world which consists of dream, fantasy and myth. I’ve never felt that these “two worlds” are as separate as one might think, and in fact my poetry as well as my life seems to occupy a place—you might call it a kind of no-man’s land—between the two. Very often experiences or observations which are immediate take on grand or universal significance for me, because they seem to capsulize and give new force to the age-old wonders, mysteries and fears which have always delighted and bewildered mankind. In my attempt to describe a world which is for me both miraculous and terrible, I make abundant use of myth, metaphor and symbol; these are as much a part of my language as the alphabet I use.
—Gwendolyn MacEwen, qtd. in Jan Bartley, Gwendolyn MacEwen and Her Works (1-2)