Saturday, November 2, 2013

Andrew Hudgins

Andrew Hudgins was born a military brat in Fort Hood, Texas, in 1951, moving to New Mexico, Ohio, and England before elementary school in North Carolina and California. His family lived for one year outside Paris before his father was transferred to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1966, the year after the Selma-to-Montgomery march. He has attended Huntingdon College, the University of Alabama, the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and Stanford University. His poetry has been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award. He lives in Columbus, Ohio, and teaches at The Ohio State University.

Hudgins's latest book is The Joker: A Memoir.

From his Q & A with Okla Elliott at Mayday Magazine:

Okla Elliott: Your new memoir is all about jokes—what we learn through them, how we navigate difficult psychological territory via them, and the underlying logic of them—but this is not your first foray into humor. You have a book of humorous poems, a rarity for a poet these days, and even your more overtly serious poetry makes use of humor, dark or otherwise. Could you explain a bit about your obvious fascination with humor and how, perhaps more specifically, this fascination has shaped your literary output?

Andrew Hudgins: Like everyone, I love to laugh, and as a kid I spent a lot of time about the things that made me laugh—jokes, books, the standup comedians on Ed Sullivan—and I realized that humor, far from being trivial, often commented on a subject forcefully, often with a fundamental observation about life. In other words, humor can be a widening of the intelligence of the joker, the listener, and the work that includes it. By mocking what it’s saying, humor looks at both sides of an issue at once.

Here’s an example. As a kid, somewhere between fifteen and seventeen years old, I was watching the Ed Sullivan Show with my dad when a comedian told the joke about the Texas oilman who says to the Vegas showgirl, “I’ll give you a million dollars to sleep with me.”

The showgirl, shocked, says, “I’ve never done anything like that. I’m just a small-town girl who’s moved to Vegas to dance.”

The millionaire says, “That’s a million dollars, cash.”

“Jeez, a million dollars, mister. That could set me up for life,” says the showgirl. “Sure, yeah, for a million dollars I’ll sleep with you.”

As the joke unfolded, I listened nervously listening because my father was a Southern Baptist deacon who was prudish about sex, so prudish he’d ever told me anything about it. While the millionaire was making his pitch, my thinking paralleled the showgirl’s. Though I never come close to having sex and didn’t really know what was involved, I also found myself entertaining the idea of letting the millionaire have his way with me. A million dollars meant I’d never walk into the backdoor of another hamburger joint, clock in for my shift, and have to scrape the grill and drain the deep-fat fryer.

Once the girl has agreed to sleep with him, the millionaire, looks at her appraisingly and says, “What about for an hundred dollars?”

“What kind of girl do you think I am?” says the showgirl.

“We’ve already established that,” replies the Texan. “Now we’re just negotiating the price.”

I felt duly chastised by the joke even as I laughed at it. I was abashed at how my own cupidity had been revealed to me in the starkest turns. My father laughed because he believed that any compromise of principles was a form of prostitution, and I knew that was why he was laughing. I, on the other hand, knew I lived with compromise and I was thus at some basic and undeniable level a whore. I suspected that...[read on]
Learn more about The Joker, and follow Andrew Hudgins on Facebook.

Writers Read: Andrew Hudgins (March 2009).

Writers Read: Andrew Hudgins.

The Page 99 Test: The Joker.

--Marshal Zeringue