There are too many happy children. I'm talking about those giddy school boys you see on benches reading senseless books and laughing at the pictures. Or their female comrades reading fairy tales and getting all caught up in the story. These happy children must be stopped. The giddy boys get these foolhardy ideas that they must be chivalrous and, well boys, while the girls believe themselves to be helpless princesses locked in tall towers guarded by dragons . This joy must be quenched at the source, we must, as best we can, suck the fun out of our reading: have Prince Charming hanged on the nearest tree and tell Sleeping Beauty to keep hitting the snooze button. For the book is a very serious issue and reading is the highest form of art. I argue, in these here brief words, that the end of our reading should be a sort of depressed seriousness. This should be the end goal, and we should seek, as best we possibly can, to find ways which encourage this depressing seriousness. I grant the current deluge of literary theories out there, but not a single one of them advocates that we read in order to be depressed. Killjoy Criticism is the highest theory. It asks the question, "How can I approach this text in such a way that will make me as depressed as possible?" Killjoy Criticism is the theory that will lead us back to ourselves. We must read to be depressed.
We should come to books as we do a funeral. And as with any funeral, we have the characters, but naturally we sit and ponder our own end. Thus, we should enter those pages with a grave seriousness that is solely focused on ourselves. This seriousness will completely transform our reading experience. Every character will come alive, and every symbolism will point back to you, the reader, for who is more important in this life than you? And an important person is a serious person. Therefore, the primary thing that must be done when we enter these tomes is to look for ourselves as much as possible, ignoring at all costs the historical or biographical context that may add to the text. Evidence is on our side here as well. For it does not take long to find that the most selfish and narcissistic person in the room is usually the most depressed. Just look at all those egoists on Facebook, and you will see how taking ourselves seriously leads to a fantastic depression, something our reading desperately lacks. Fitting ourselves into the narrow cracks of the narrative we're reading is the primary step needed if we are to come out depressed on the other side.
Over-analysis is key for the Killjoy Critic. If you wonder if something's meaning is a stretch, that is all the more reason for the validity of your reasoning. Huck Finn should not just represent you the reader (though this is primary), he should represent Othello, Samuel Johnson, Henry Ford and Hans Zimmer. Frankenstein's Monster is a clear illusion to an obscure body part, and Shylock represents the repressed females of the 20th century. Words too should be stretched beyond comprehension. For words are merely a social construction; they don't actually mean any one thing. The more meanings and symbolisms you can pack into the most constrained word the better: "Strain the gnat but swallow the camel." You should come out of your first reading of Moby Dick with at least 20 different readings readily available. For in the end all this relativity is depressingly serious. It is a serious statement that says anything can mean anything and everything means nothing. And when we've reached the end of the nihilistic river we've created, we'll be freely depressed in a world of obscurity and meaninglessness just as Jim was freed at the end of his journey with Huck.
This brings me to story. Killjoy Critics believe story is the last thing any reader should be focused on. Getting caught up in a story only produces excitement, adventure, and ultimately joy. This is a huge detriment to reading books. Books are merely here for social and cultural advancement. Serious stuff. Not kid story-time. Who ever approached a fairy tale with true seriousness? The last thing a good, serious reader should get out of the Grapes of Wrath is that the Joad's traveled from Oklahoma to California. Oklahoma to California? Try Irkutsk to St. Petersburg. The Joad's didn't start in Oklahoma, they began as the bourgeois elite and traveled to a proletariat prison. Story's produce joy, multiple meanings creates chaos, pain and depression like the married couple that can't seem to interpret each other correctly. Thus, we should seek for the "hidden meaning" behind the story and ignore the joy of the narrative altogether. The reader will be depressingly serious, knowing that St. George didn't just slay the dragon but was actually fighting the slave trade, aids, and endangered Moon Bears.
But the Killjoy reader, apart from being solely devoted to himself, is also conscious of the social issues around him. Remember. We come to literature to be depressingly serious. Nothing on the planet, apart from yourself, is more serious than social advancement. This social advancement is discovered in three major categories of culture each of which leave you depressed: 1) social oppression, 2) economical oppression , and 3) the oppression of the ecosystem and animals. Now, we should tackle one at a time.
This first one coincides with the oppression of a sexual revolution. Everything in literature must correspond with this ideal if we are to be aptly depressed on the other side. The pervert is usually a depressed person because he takes his perversion too seriously, and likewise the perverted reader is depressingly serious. So when you're reading Pride and Prejudice, you should only consider how Elizabeth Bennet's sexuality is being severely repressed by Mr. Darcy. The last thing Pride and Prejudice is is a tale of two blockheads who found love. This is too humorous and humor, above all, must be annihilated. But when Elizabeth states in the novel that "Stupid men are the only ones worth knowing at all," she is clearing pioneering the current third-wave feminist cause.
In Chaucer's Miller's Tale, the Miller is telling a story about how the proletariat of the post-Civil War era struggled to find their identity. John specifically represents the proletariat who simply couldn't find their way, and his being cuckolded by Nicholas (bourgeois) with his young wife Alisoun (capitalism) while the parish clerk Absolon (corporate greed) seeks to get a piece of Alisoun (capitalism). But keep in mind our earlier principle. John does not just represent the lost class of people after the Civil War. He's also an oddly specific reference to George Bush's last four years in office. Chaucer knew it all. Nevertheless, when Chaucer says "She was a fair young wife, her body slender as any weasel's, and as soft and tender" (Coghill's trans.), he's actually directly quoting Marx signifying that Capitalism (Alisoun), though beautiful in outward appearance, was actually nothing but an emaciated weasel, willing and able to deceive the proletariat. If the economy does not leave you depressed, nothing will, and so economics should certainly find their way into your reading.
Finally, we have the oppression of our beloved planet. The Killjoy Critic firmly believes that one of the most depressing things to think about is the planet's apparent dissolving on its own accord. There is no more clear indication of this than in the Pickwick Papers. When the four travelers are setting out for Dingley Dell, a clear instance shows itself in their inability to control the horses. Winkle, nominated to ride solo, is unable to control his beast and eventually the horses in the cart take off from the other travelers. All this clearly indicates nature's revolt against man. And Mr Pickwick's frustration at not being able to get rid of the horse indicates man's general misunderstanding of Mother Nature.
It's like a dream... a hideous dream. The idea of a man's walking about, all day, with a dreadful horse that he can't get rid of!
And despite man's attempt to embrace the supernatural through religion, he still finds himself in the depressing cell of his natural world.
These here are the core techniques every Killjoy Critic should adopt. Anything else lies under our base tenant: "If a book cheers you up, read it differently." Remember: Nothing is more serious than yourself. You are the center of your world, find yourself in books. But remember that though every single protagonist out there represents you, they also represent everything else under the sun, and this is depressingly serious business. These peculiar techniques for reading are a sure-fire way to find the act as deplorable as possible. And that is the best way to read. Not like a giddy schoolboy who fights dragons for damsels in distress; not one who seeks to improve himself by contemplating on the mysteries of some deep spiritual passage in an outdated and irrelevant book; not one who only wishes to expand his experiences by vicariously visiting other worlds, planets, and countries and seeing how those people view the world. No. After all the narrative has been stripped and all the additional meanings have been inserted into the text by some whimsically depressing rationale which can't possibly be taken with even the slightest amoutn of seriouness, the Killjoy Critic knows that, deep down, the best way to read a book is to read like a depressingly serious post-postmodernist.
Sam Snow (theficklefarce.wordpress.com)
In "The Catacombs"
September 10, 2013
"Old Man in Sorrow"
Oil on Canvas - 1890
Vincent Van Gogh