The irony of it all
Jeanne's still at DragonCon and her name has yet to come up on any police blotter reports, which means she might
be behaving herself.
Last week at Bubonicon, one of the big draws was Connie Willis
, bestselling novelist and winner of a starship load of awards--the Hugo(s), Nebula(s), Locus(es), Arthur C. Clarke(s), World Fantasy(ies), John Campbell, and one from the British Science Fiction Association. I sat in on her presentation, Irony in Action
. She defined irony as the Law of Unintended Consequences put into effect and offered this wonderful example:
"Irony is when you buy a suit with two pairs of pants and burn a hole in the coat."
Willis discussed her favorite ironic metaphor, the luxury ship Titanic
, and the tragic "what-ifs" that led to so much loss of life: Had the Titanic
taken no evasive action and hit the iceberg straight on, the ship wouldn't have sank so quickly.
Or had the telegraph operator suspended routine message traffic, he would've received the iceberg warning. And had the telegraph operator on the California
stayed on duty another five minutes, he would've heard the Titanic
's distress message.
Willis said that irony was her favorite literary device as it shows that history often hangs in the balance of trivial details (as when the duty officer at Pearl Harbor dismissed the radar report of a large inbound formation of airplanes) and that despite their best intentions, people make counterproductive choices (Oedipus
). Willis explained why she didn't like grocery books (those bestsellers near the check-out stands) because of their hit-you-on-the-head earnestness and lack of irony. Everyone's favorite bestselling punching bag, Stephenie Meyer, was mentioned...several times. Willis said the Bible and the great works of literature were framed in irony. Among her favorite masters of irony, Shakespeare and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
So I looked back at my favorite books and movies and behold: irony in action all over the place. Even Disney reveled in it and one of the studio's best-known tearjerkers drops irony like the blade of a guillotine.
I'm talking about Old Yeller
It's post-Civil War Texas. Young Travis (played by Tommy Kirk
) reluctantly adopts a stray yellow mongrel dog. Though Old Yeller does typically dog-dumb things, it does show its worth by repeating fending off varmints and dangerous critters. Then Old Yeller protects the family by tangling with a marauding wolf and so contracts rabies. Travis watches his beloved companion go mad and vicious and can either let Old Yeller die a tormented death...or he can put the dog out of its misery. So in doing the right thing, Travis has to shoot his best friend. *sniff* Hand me a tissue.
Any other great stories of irony to share?
Labels: Connie Willis, irony, Old Yeller, Titanic