As a writer of sorts I sometimes sit in envious, brooding resentment of others whose literary attainments make mine seem pallid, banal and ephemeral. The “brooding resentment” reference is a bit excessive and that only happens on badly blocked days, so for the most part, I’ll settle for the “envious.”
I’ll be candid. I envy many writers of various genres, for both their output and their turns-of-phrase. Douglas Adams of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series almost made me cringe with his drollery, wit and huge intelligence. I know that chronic writer’s block led him into so much stress that he died at an early age. But, maybe to peak too young is better than to not have peaked at all. Likewise, I love all the trips, external and internal, of Bill Bryson, and I want to be just like him when I grow up, despite the fact he’s younger than I am. Meanwhile, I have traveled the world with Paul Theroux, and have solved crimes with Ann Rule, and there are many more I could mention, but shall refrain. I haven’t even gotten into the wisdom of such columnists as Mike Royko, P.J. O’Rourke (both as columnist and book writer), Christopher Hitchens and the late and terrifying bizarre Hunter S. Thompson, the Jerry Lee Lewis of the printed page.
As I said, I have envied, and have even aped some of the above in attempting to find my own voice. But, there is one group of writers that I envy thoroughly in vain, and that is the females. Female columnists, novelists, social commentators, and assuredly bloggers (some of you female bloggers make me sigh with envy at your style – indeed, I’ll go on to say that some female bloggers trump the males of this realm handily). What they do is offer something that no male seems able to attain and that is the ability to take a simple domestic or personal situation and turn it into the sort of hilarity that can only make me, a lowly male think, I wish I could write like that. I wish I could go to the commonplace situation and present something that will make my readers wet their respective pants.
I may mention the ‘biggies’ first, because they attained a kind of mundane nirvana with their wanderings from kitchen to vacuuming to bedroom hijinks. My early favorite in this, and she has long since departed the world, is the late Betty MacDonald. Betty, writing out of Seattle in the 1940s, first gained fame for her screamingly funny tale of chicken farming on the Olympic Peninsula, called The Egg and I. It was also turned into a film in the 1940s, starring Claudette Colbert and Fred Mac Murray, and introducing us all to Ma and Pa Kettle (shown above, who were based on real neighbors of Betty’s.) A later book, called Onions in the Stew, told of raising two adolescent girls on a small island in Puget Sound. Personally, I think it’s even funnier than Egg.
A huge admirer of Betty MacDonald was the late Erma Bombeck, whose earlier stuff especially, resembled her mentor’s. She later developed her own style, and became a deserved media darling. Again, she devoted her musings to real life and the pitfalls that we happen upon throughout our lives. I could go on and on through other female wits like Jean Kerr (Please Don’t Eat the Daisies), and everything by my special heroine, Dorothy Parker (see photo above).
But, we don’t need to go to the top-guns (if that reference is appropriate) in considering female writers because I know other distaff scribes who deserve to be as prominent as the aforementioned. There are females with whom we’re all familiar on these pages, people who come and visit my blog or your blog, who I find immensely amusing and thoughtful. I won’t mention names, though I’m tempted to, but I have often left comments on their blogs attesting to how funny and also thought-provoking I find them.
And sometimes I’ll profess how envious I am of them. Envious because while I get to stand up to pee, I can’t convey the commonplace like they can. Some of them could even offer a funnier tale of standing up to pee than I could. I know they could
So, International Women’s Day recently has come and gone, and in that regard I’ll raise my metaphorical glass to the women of the blogosphere and the printed page. You are gems in a sadly postliterate world.