Situations and comedies

So apparently this book, the fantabulous tome The Gates of Vienna, qualifies as literature. I know that because I was asked to talk about it and other things I’ve written and designed at a literature festival.

If you don’t believe me, check it out here:

I don’t often think of The Gates of Vienna as literature. I think of it as a funny story in some new format that I haven’t quite come to grips with and that ironically don’t have a lot of time to write for these days. I could imagine this being a curse of a sort of success. Well, I could tell myself that at any rate.

At the festival I attended a really fascinating workshop on sitcoms. Sitcoms are, I often need to remind myself, “Situational comedy”. They have a fairly common format, are almost always a half hour long to watch and as far as I know only on TV. The session, by one Deborah Klika, was about “Rereading the Sitcom” as a form of literature and how sitcoms work. Most of us, myself included, just think of sitcoms as fun, fairly mindless half hours of TV you watch at night. This is largely true, but they are indeed a form of literature and art. High art if you ask me. In fact, I would argue Seinfeld is probably the pinnacle of American art in general, but that maybe is another blog post.

The interesting thing is one of the primary things making a sitcom a sitcom is a small cast of characters who never change. That is, their “emotional stasis is reestablished.” And as the writers of Seinfeld were credited with saying, “no hugs, no learning”.

This was always the intent really with The Gates of Vienna, and I’ve often described it as Curb Your Enthusiasm during a 17th century siege. To show that the stories and the people populating and taking us through them are all the same, whether in the mid-90’s or the 1680’s.