Literary Humor & Sarcasm Through The Ages

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I was asked by Dellani Oakes and Karen Vaughan to participate in a blog series about sarcasm and humor so I decided to find out what was considered funny in literature.  This quest took me way back in time before Terry Pratchett and Mark Twain even before Shakespeare.  I actually found one-liners from ancient Rome, and even further back to the Eyptians.  Below I listed some of what you could call an evolution of humor throughout the ages.  Most of these come from literature, while others are of unknown origins.  Nonetheless, whatever people have found funny in ancient times may have us scratching our heads today.  Yet one thing unites all cultures, people loved to laugh no matter the time or place.  I  really enjoyed researching this subject and hope you enjoy it as well.  So without further ado..

Ancient Egypt:

“I do not see a stoneworker on an important errand or a goldsmith in a place to which he has been sent, but I have seen a coppersmith at his work at the door of his furnace. His fingers were like the claws of the crocodile, and he stank more than fish excrement.”

Satire of the Trades

Ancient Greece: Aristophanes’ Rant About Modern Poets:

“A disgrace to their art. If ever they are granted a chorus, what does their offering at the shrine of Tragedy amount to? One cock of the hind leg and they’ve pissed themselves dry. You never hear of them again.” –The Frogs

 

Ancient Rome:

A man is taking care of his departed wife’s burial. Someone asks him “Who is it that rests in peace here?” The man answers: “Me, now that I’m rid of her!” –Source Unknown

China:

After his wife had beaten him badly, a man crawled under his family bed. “Come out this instant!” his wife screamed.
“I am man enough to do as I please!” he said. “And I’ll come out when I’m good and ready.” –Ming Dynasty Tales

Shakespeare

CHIRON:  Thou hast undone our mother.
AARON:  Villain, I have done thy mother.

Titus Andronicus: Act 4, Scene 2

Ben Franklin

In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is freedom, in water there is bacteria.  –This quote is often attributed to Ben Franklin though there’s been debate lately about that.

Mark Twain:

To create man was a fine and original idea; but to add the sheep was a tautology (redundant). –St. Louis Post-Dispatch (30 May 1902); also in Mark Twain : A Life, p. 611

Dorothy Parker:

You can lead a horticulture but you can’t make her think. –You Might As Well Live: The Life & Times Of Dorothy Parker  

Douglas Adams:

“In the beginning, the universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.” –The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe

Bill Bryson:

“I come from Des Moines. Somebody had to.” –The Lost Continent

TerryPratchett

“Just erotic. Nothing kinky. It’s the difference between using a feather and using a chicken.”

Eric

 

So what are your favorite one-liners from history, tell us in the comments section.

 

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When You’re The Killer: A Revelation On Writer’s Block

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In the past year I’ve been suffering from writers block when it came to my novel Miss Mary Mack and I couldn’t understand why?  I mean I could see the story clearly but I had trouble coming up with the right words.  Every scene was a struggle, which led to me abandoning the story several times.  Then one day I was having a discussion with a friend who was struggling with her teenage daughter while she came to the realization that their problems were rooted in the fact that they were both so similar.  If that isn’t the ultimate form of irony then I don’t know what is?  However as my writer’s block continued, I read several articles on why authors write themselves into their work and a shocking conclusion was reached: I was Miss Mary!!!

No, I don’t go around murdering people, (although those thoughts do pop up in my head from time to time) I took pieces of my life and sprinkled them throughout the story.  Miss Mary was in fact physically modeled after my first grade principal Miss Murray, who wore dark clothing that covered her body from head to toe.  She also was a disciplinarian which made her a terrifying figure in the first grade.  However she wasn’t evil, just tough.

I also had a fourth grade bus driver by the name of Miss Johnson who was sometimes called, Miss MaryShe didn’t really like driving a bus and insisted we all ride in silence.  Weird, huh?

Then there’s me, I’m not too fond of children, I mean don’t hate them, I just prefer not to be around them.  P.S. I come from a long line of women who were reluctant mothers.  So I was able to draw on that when it came time to summon the callousness required for a serial killer.  It was also then I realized that I was trying to make sense of my past.  And guess what?  Miss Mary is the perfect vehicle for that, I can run loose and do as much damage without really affecting anyone in the real world.  The big plus is that I can kill and not wind up in prison.  I guess this is what George R.R. Martin feels like every time he sits down at his computer.  LOL!

Okay, Get To The Point!

When your work hits too close to home, it can be difficult to navigate through the story.  If you have a real unresolved conflict in your own life, it may be near impossible to resolve the one in your story because you can’t imagine your characters finding peace.  You know, the apology that never came, the relationship that failed, or the never ending dysfunction of a family, can really damage your perception and almost make you blind to the obvious.  I know, I had this problem and the only way to get through it was to think my way logically.  I had to know what readers or in this case society expected from this book.  I had to be God and dole out punishment and correct injustices.  This doesn’t always happen in real life.  I also sometimes have to step back and let my characters go their own way.  For example, would a man care about an argument he had with his wife as he fought space aliens?  Probably not.  You have to let your characters be who they are and come to their own conclusions.  Once I did that, their world unfolded and things began making sense again.

A Final Thought

As with most things in life, writing isn’t about you.  Sure you can create worlds and characters but once you do so, they start to develop their own reality.  Try as you may, you are not of their world and vice versa.  Only a piece of you will live on in your work, but the rest of you gets to move on and make peace with the reality that is meant to be.

Bio: Rachel Rueben is author of YA, supernatural as well as romance books.  Her work can be found her on the Cereal Authors blog as well as Wattpad.  She is also a blogger at Writing By The Seat Of My Pants where she discusses self-publishing and rarely refers to herself in the third person.  😉

From Miss Mary Mack: A Meeting Of The Minds

Lilly From Miss Mary Mack
Image via Pixabay

Not knowing what to do, he went downstairs to ask and was met by the little girl he met outside in the chicken coop.  “Hi Oscar!  Why ain’t you in school with the other boys?”  Lilly asked.  Shrugging his shoulders, he answered, “I’m going tomorrow.”

“Good,” she said, “We don’t need anymore stupid boys in this place.”

“What about you?  Why aren’t you in school?” Oscar asked curiously.

“I don’t need it, I’m already smart.”  She declared.

Not believing her, he said, “Nuh uh, everybody has to go to school, Miss Mary said so.”

“She’s not the boss of me!”

“Oooh,” Oscar exclaimed, “You a devil child!”

“A what?” Lilly asked, rather dismayed.

“My momma used to say when a girl wasn’t right, she was a devil child.”

“That’s silly!  If I’m a devil, then you’re a devil too!”

Resisting the label, Oscar declared, “Nope!  I’m saved by the Lord, and one of his sheep.”

“You look more like a goat to me!”

“Baaah!” Oscar bleeted, having finished his closing argument.

Not quite sure what to make of him, Lilly began walking away and said, “Just another stupid boy.”

Miss Mary Mack: My Latest Um…Novel?

Miss Mary Mack Cereal Authors

 

The sound of little girls giggling and playing a hand clapping game could be heard all the way up to Old Man Oscar’s porch: “Miss Mary Mack, Mack, Mack…All dressed in black, black, black….She wore her buttons all down her back, back, back…”

“Whacha know ‘bout Miss Mary?” said the old man rocking while the children clapped along. Looking at him one of the little girls answered, “It’s just a song, there’s no Miss Mary!”

“Girl hush! I tell y’all it’s true, there was a Miss Mary and she used to run that ol’ orphanage near LaGrange road.”

Thinking these were just the ramblings of an old man, the girls continued to play on. Meanwhile a skeptical little boy asked, “Oh yeah, how come I ain’t never heard of no Miss Mary?” Seeing a little bit of himself in the boy, the old man answered, “Befo’ yo time boy.” As he slowly rocked back and forth in his chair, the memories began flooding back. Having caught their attention the children came closer to the porch. Noticing he had an audience, the old man took a knife to a scar on his arm and pointed, “You see that there, those is boins (burns) I got fo eating befo’ sayin’ Grace. She grabbed a lit candle stick and just pressed it into my arm like it whattin nuthin’.” The children gasped in horror and now that the old man had their undivided attention, he felt obligated to finish what he had started.

Chocking up as he remembered the dust from old dirt road that led up to the ancient manor. Old man Oscar pulled on his collar feeling the blazing Alabama sun as he recalled the hard labor he was forced to do for the demanding matron, Miss Mary. Finding it hard to breathe, he began to take deep breaths as his hands shook, from the trauma at the hands of that unforgiving serpent. Hearing the sound of her leather strap as it whipped in the air before making contact with his skin, he had no choice but to take another sip of gin from his flask so he wouldn’t lose his composure in front of the children who were now demanding to know who this Miss Mary was.

Unlike most people old Man Oscar, considered the memory loss that old age bestowed upon him a blessing for a hard and sorrowful life. He had lost so many friends, and family over his 70 years, but it seemed God himself would not allow Oscar to completely forget Miss Mary, so reluctantly, he began the tale…

He was around 8 years old when his mother brought him to the orphanage ran by the First Apostle Church of Morecliff Hills. As she led him up the stairs Oscar’s mother promised, “Now, don’t fret I’ll be back for ya. This is only for a little while.” When they reached the top of the final step of the porch, she hugged him. Holding on tightly Oscar pulled on her blue cotton shawl, tears streamed down his mother’s eyes as she instructed him, “Now you be good for Miss Mary, she’s gonna take care of ya.” As on cue, a woman appeared from the porch door, as though summoned by all the sadness.  Clad in a black dress covering all her flesh, the woman looked like a ghost emerging from the shadows. Peering down at Oscar she asked, “The people ‘roun here call me Miss Mary, what’s your name?” as though she didn’t already know. What little Oscar didn’t understand was that this arrangement had been in the works for almost a year. Though Oscar’s mother promised to be back, Miss Mary knew she wouldn’t, most parents never returned. A few guilty ones might write a few letters but eventually, all contact would cease. This was why Miss Mary felt it was important to build a rapport with the children in the beginning to make the transition easier so she smiled and spoke sweetly to the young boy to keep him calm as his mother walked out of his life.

Bio: Rachel Rueben is author of YA, supernatural as well as romance books.  Her work can be found her on the Cereal Authors blog as well as Wattpad.  She is also a blogger at Writing By The Seat Of My Pants where she discusses self-publishing and rarely refers to herself in the third person.  😉

Where On Earth Did Miss Mary Come From?

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Last month I shared an excerpt of my recent novel Miss Mary Mack and I’m sure some of you are really confused.  I understand after Fedelta, Miss Mary seems very different and maybe even strange but I followed the muse and she took me in a different direction. A very different direction.

Miss Mary was based on an experience I had one hot, summer’s night.  In fact it was so hot that I decided to sleep with the window open and as I was falling asleep, I heard giggling and a little girl singing, “Miss Mary Mac, Mac, Mac all dressed in black…”  At first I thought I was dreaming but it was just some silly neighborhood kids who had snuck out and were playing around at 1 a.m.  Yeah, I live in that kind of neighborhood.  When I realized what was going on, I was angry but also, inspired.  I wondered, how would these kids have survived back in the days before child abuse was considered a bad thing?  What can I say, I was having a Stephen King moment!  As my mind swirled, it was then that I saw her.  A woman, standing at the end of my bed and she was dressed in a matronly 1930’s style dress with granny boots.  As she looked down on me, I could see the scowl on her face and I knew immediately what was going on.  The muse was speaking.  So I got up and scribbled on a piece of paper the words: Miss Mary Mack and went to bed.

The next day, I did write a brief paragraph outlining the idea but did nothing with it.  At that time, I just started writing for this blog and Fedelta was born, I was also finishing up Eternal Bond, so I didn’t have the time to start yet another project.  But fate has a funny way of making you do things because over the next few months, I started hearing stories about Orphan Trains on Youtube as well as ghost stories from the Civil War.  The spark that lit the flame was a story I read about a woman by the name of Rosa Carmichael who ran an orphanage and was alleged to have abused the children in her care.  So I sat down and grudgingly wrote a few paragraphs which I finally shared last month.

I don’t have any idea as to where this story is going, but I know it’s going to lead me down paths I’ve never explored before.  Most books do.  What a lot of readers don’t know is that sometimes our stories surprise us (the writers) as much as it does them.  Actually this is the fun part of writing where characters become real, and situations uncertain.  In any case, I hope you stay tuned for the next couple of excerpts from the book because something tells me that Miss Mary is going to be one of my most challenging characters yet.

Bio: Rachel Rueben is author of YA, supernatural as well as romance books.  Her work can be found her on the Cereal Authors blog as well as Wattpad.  She is also a blogger at Writing By The Seat Of My Pants where she discusses self-publishing and rarely refers to herself in the third person.  😉

Fedelta Parte 28: All Hail Cassandra Fenetti!

Fedelta Part 28
Image via Pixabay

*Warning Language*

As Cassie poured the champagne, there was a knock at the door.  Knowing who it was she yelled, “It’s open!”  Instead of Stephano, several armed bodyguards entered the building and immediately began a security sweep of the place.  Turning over several tables, Cassie shouted, “Hey, no breaking stuff!”  One of the goons smiled at her and proceeded to open the ladies restroom door and peeked inside for any ambushes.  As they swept the entire room, they went back to the entrance and gave the all safe signal.  Within seconds, Stephano appeared with a huge grin on his face, “Ad victorem ire spolia!” (To the victor go the spoils) he said feeling like Julius Cesar.  With his coat draped on his shoulders, he looked like a great Roman conqueror as he slowly approached Cassie.  Accepting the glass of champagne she offered, he declared, “It went smooth as silk.  They didn’t even so much as talk shit to us, let alone put up a fight.”

“Good.” Cassie answered raising her glass.

As their champagne flutes clanked, Stephano asked, “Now it’s confession time, how did you know about the gas stations?”

Figuring it was time to come clean, she answered, “My father ran the gas stations, and when he died, my brother took them over.  The Cosimos replaced him with a half-assed hood.”

“God, you’re ruthless.” Stephano said admiring her darker side.

“We’re not done yet, the Cosimos will be back and when they regroup, they’ll throw everything they got at us.”

“Don’t worry about it, I’ll handle the dog fights.” He said reassuring her.  As he did, he made a gesture to one of his men who immediately left the room and returned with a large black, Hermes Birkin bag.  Handing it to her, he said, “As per our agreement.”  Looking inside, Cassie saw several stacks of cash neatly piled inside.  “You remembered.” She said rather impressed by the $10,000 handbag.

“I remembered, I remember a lot of things.” He said caressing her cheek.

Smiling up at him, she asked, “What about Destiny?”

“She ain’t gotta know.”

“But she will, when I tell her.  You know me, Stephano, I don’t play second to no one.”

“Stop bustin’ my balls, I’m doing the best I can here.”

“Alright, but I’ll only accept this for so long.  I’m not a patient woman.”

“Yeah, I know,” he said in a murmur.  As he leaned in to kiss her, a scuffle broke off, outside.  The sounds of cursing and loud thuds could be heard as Amato and Jimmy fought their way into the room.  With their guns drawn, they entered through the door as Stephano’s security team tried to pin them down.  Waving his hand in the air, Stephano said, “Calm down everybody, what’s the matter here?” as though he didn’t know.

This was Stephano’s big moment and upon seeing him, Amato realized he was just a pawn in a bigger scheme.  Infuriated, he seriously contemplated blowing Stephano’s head off right there and then.  As his hands shook, Cassie immediately stood between the two men and said, “You can’t, you’ve come too far to blow this now.  Let us do what we gotta do.”  Bewildered Amato looked at her and asked, “You can’t be serious?”  And through a broken heart broke, Cassie answered, “Do you want this to be over or not?  With the Cosimos gone, we’ll both be free.  No more running and no more hiding.  I know it sounds like a dream, but we’re close now.  Just let me go.”

Amato had to force his fingers to slowly unwrap themselves from the trigger.  As he did, Stephano’s men backed off and rallied around their boss.  Walking out the door, Cassie didn’t look back, and as Stephano followed her lead, he looked at Amato and adding insult to injury he mocked, “How did you think this was gonna end?”

Author Bio:
Rachel Rueben is author of the bestselling YA novel Hag and The Eternal Bond Series both available on Wattpad. To keep up with Rachel, you can sign up for her frighteningly entertaining newsletter here.

Fedelta Parte 27: Snitches

Fedelta Part 27
Image via Pixabay

Warning: Language

All of the old hat detectives delighted in reviving their alter egos from yesteryear, “Hey you mutha fuckas ready to roll?” Jimmy yelled from the end of the hall.  “Aihhh, keep your toupee on!” Amato yelled at Jimmy.  As the others at the bar laughed at the exchange, Cassie kept checking her phone.  She got a call from her ex Stephano, over an hour ago, but couldn’t answer it without looking suspicious.  She already knew that Amato would figure things out eventually but how long that took would all depend on her ability to play it cool.  She had to make good on this one deal with Stephano because it could change her life.  As Cassie watched the boys chum it up, she was desperately waiting for them to just leave.  Finally her prayers were answered when the guys started filing out of the room, and as the door slammed behind them, she fumbled around in her purse until she found her phone.  Looking at the screen, Cassie saw that Stephano left a text that read, “Location, location, location.” With that text was a pic of an empty parking lot and an unguarded gas station.  Her heart leapt for joy, it was starting to look like she had a business partner. Getting up from her chair, she texted her location and invited him to the VFW.

There was no way Amato and Jimmy’s crew of grumpy old men were going to be able to pull this off without a little help.  Okay, a lot of help.  She hoped it wouldn’t come to this but it looked like her worst fears were about to come to fruition.  She would have to watch Amato get killed, or be killed herself.  Looking at their stupid corkboard, Cassie ran her hands over the pictures and chuckled.  She knew it would never be enough, because once you learned how the play the game was played, the rules would change.  And she could sense change in the air, it was a sudden decision but she had to seize the moment.  Cassie would return, back into the fold and take what had always eluded her father and brother—kingship.  She knew Stephano could get her that, and she had to try for everybody’s sake.

From behind the bar, she took out two Champaign flutes and borrowed a very expensive bottle of Dom Périgon Rosé.  She would pay Jimmy back later, today, she had a lot to celebrate, her rebirth and the Cosimo’s funeral.  She convinced herself this was the best for everyone, Amato would get what he wanted, and she would get off the hook, so it was win-win.  Putting the Champaign on ice, she smiled as she grabbed the glasses and put them on the counter of the bar.  This felt right, no longer would she be at the behest of Amato or the FBI and now she would have a new family, the Alunnis.  Once the money started pouring in, Stephano would make his move and she would help him rule over the entire family.  This was her chance to reclaim her family’s honor and to lead the next generation into a new era.  First however, Amato and Jimmy had to play their parts.

As Cassie planned her next move, Amato and his crew were parked down the street from Clark’s gas station waiting on Caruso to come back with the intel.  Info had trickled in via social media in the form of pictures and videos which he was sure to encode with hashtags and phrases like, #CarusosDayOut #OpReCon to be sure that the threads were vague and understood only by those it was meant for.

Things were going great and when Caruso returned to the surveillance van, Amato was relieved that the first part of their operation was done.  “I can’t believe how little security there was!” exclaimed Jimmy as he went through photo after photo of empty rooms accessed by Caruso.  “They’re getting very sloppy.” Amato answered back, “This would’ve never happened on Frank Fenetti’s watch.”  Surprised, Jimmy responded, “It sounds like you admire the rat bastard.”

“No, but I do admire a tightly run ship.” Amato replied.

“Well, we got what we came for maybe we should go back to base an…”

Amato cut him off and said, “No, we need to move now before they have time to redeploy.”

Thrilled by the response, Jimmy said, “Okay, we can throw down today but we need backup.”

“Let’s roll.” Amato said as he exited the shabby, white van.

Walking up the street to his car, an elderly woman approached him on the sidewalk and said, “Hey I know you, you’re the guy from T.V..” she said.

Confused and taken aback, Amato said, “I think you have me mistaken for someone else.”

“No, you were the cop.  The double-crosser!”

Laughing nervously, he replied, “Ma’am you got the wrong guy.”

That’s when another older woman who was sitting on a porch next door threw a glass jar at him and yelled, “Rat!”

Dodging out of the way, the glass jar shattered all over the sidewalk but Amato kept his cool and remained silent even though his cover had been blown.  Getting on his cell he called Jimmy and said, “Get the hell outta here, we’ve been made.”  As he heard the van start, he made it safely to his car, when a black SUV pulled up blocking the road ahead, trapping them all.  Bewildered, Amato stared in disbelief as four heavily armed men popped out of the SUV and proceeded to enter the gas station.  “Son of a bitch!” he muttered to himself.

“What the hell is goin’ on?” yelled Jimmy still on the speakerphone.

“I don’t know.” Amato answered.  However deep down he had a feeling Cassie had something to do with it but how, he didn’t know.  Scrambling to get inside the car, he started the ignition, and put the car in reverse, then Amato ordered, “Back to base boys.”

Author Bio:
Rachel Rueben is author of the bestselling YA novel Hag and The Eternal Bond Series both available on Wattpad. To keep up with Rachel, you can sign up for her frighteningly entertaining newsletter here.