Humor is a way of holding off how awful life can be, to protect yourself. Finally, you get just too tired, and the news is too awful, and humor doesn’t work anymore. Somebody like Mark Twain thought life was quite awful but held the awfulness at bay with jokes and so forth, but finally he couldn’t do it anymore. His wife, his best friend, and two of his daughters had died. If you live long enough, a lot of people close to you are going to die.
It may be that I am no longer able to joke–that it is no longer a satisfactory defense mechanism. Some people are funny, and some are not. I used to be funny, and perhaps I’m not anymore. There may have been so many shocks and disappointments that the defense of humor no longer works. It may be that I have become rather grumpy because I’ve seen so many things that have offended me that I cannot deal with in terms of laughter.
This may have happened already. I really don’t know what I’m going to become from now on. I’m simply along for he ride to see what happens to this body and this brain of mine. I’m startled that I became a writer. I don’t think I can control my life or my writing. Every other writer I know feels he is steering himself, and I don’t have that feeling. I don’t have that sort of control. I’m simply becoming.
All I really wanted to do was give people the relief of laughing. Humor can be a relief, like an aspirin tablet. If a hundred years from now people are still laughing, I’d certainly be pleased. —A Man Without a Country 129-30.