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Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Humor in Nonfiction

     Humor is the secret weapon of the nonfiction writer. It's secret because so few writers realize that humor is often their best tool--and sometimes their only tool--for making an important point.

     Few Americans understand this. We dismiss our humorists as triflers because they never settled down to "real" work. The Pulitzer Prizes go to authors like Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner, who are (God knows) serious and are therefore certified as men of literature. The prizes seldom go to people like George Ade, H. L. Mencken, Ring Lardner, S. J. Perelman, Art Buckwald, Jules Feiffer, Woody Allen and Garrison Keillor, who seem to be just fooling around. 
     They're not fooling around. They are as serious in purpose as Hemingway or Faulkner--a national asset in forcing the country to see itself clearly. Humor, to them, is urgent work. 
William Zinsser, On Writing Well, originally published in 1975 

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