Luster, by Raven Leilani. It’s deeply, bleakly, blackly funny. Fresh and demented. Demented is easy, but fresh? Not so much, especially when you’re traveling the extremely well-traveled ground of a young woman who gets involved with a man twice her age, who’s in an open marriage. BO-RING. And yet! Her sentence-making is a joy. Little candies she hands out one after another. Plus, I found myself laughing out loud on the couch, sitting next to my five year old, who was reading a book of her own that she found equally funny. The dissonance here is probably not worth remarking on.
I’m sure I’ve found many things funny over the years, but when pressed, really only a handful of writers, shows, etc. comes to mind.
Mark Leyner. Sam Lipsyte. George Saunders. Donald Antrim—oh God, everything this man writes is devastating. Joy Williams and Lorrie Moore. Amy Hempel. Mary Robison. Lately, though, the thing that’s made me laugh the most, besides Luster, is the Kominsky Method, which means maybe I shouldn’t be arbitrating what’s funny anymore. My mom thinks this show is funny. We’ve been known to watch it together and laugh like two old men with hands in our pants. My mom’s got a very good sense of humor, but still: are we really supposed to find the same stuff funny? Is that thing happening when, like, an age gap means a lot when you’re in grade school and your boyfriend’s in college but very little once you’re both over forty?
Relatedly, the number of times I’ve laughed explosively, uncontrollably—the kind of laughter that’s enjoyable but also terrifying for its nod to mania—I can count those on two hands, as well. With some college friends. With my brother a few times, which is weird because we are very different people (which attests to how deep, sustained laughter often proceeds from the misalignment of family). A couple times with my boss, which is weirder, still. Oh, and once with my shrink, weirdest of all, because she suggested some avenue for emotional redress that I had never considered before and which I found so destabilizing, I laughed and laughed—though this was an entirely different sort of laughter, of course, and likely grist for a different installment of ye old newsletter.
In sum: farting old white guys, yay. Luster, by Raven Leilani, double yay.
PS. I wrote last week (persuasively and with a touch of aggro) about The Queen’s Gambit, but accidentally sent it ONLY to paying subscribers. Just sayin…
PPS. Happy Thanksgiving, y’all. It’s a good time to be giving thanks, so I’m doin’ it.