Saturday January 27, 2007

It's an Inside Joke

I enjoy "sight gags" and inside jokes.. Examples may be subtle and you can miss the joke entirely if you're not paying attention, or don't have the right context. Some excellent examples can be found in in comic strips and books.

The Foxtrot strip includes frequent sight gags (watch closely!) as well as references to cartoons and cartoonist. I recall one strip in which the characters were discussing whether a cartoonist would consider a particular plot for a strip (when, of course, that was the plot of the current strip).

Another strip, 9 Chickweed Lane, frequently takes advantage of the physical aspects of a comic strip world.

Chickweed1 Chickweed2

Chickweed20040121 Chickweed20040315

Then there are references in books. In one of Marcia Muller's stories, series detective Sharon McCone meets Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone at a detective's conference in San Diego. (Millhone lives and works in Santa Teresa, CA, a town that doesn't exist in "our universe")

Many mystery books feature characters who are currently reading mystery books by other, "real", authors. Not all references are in the real world, however. In some of Lawrence Block's books, Bernie Rhodenbarr enjoys a fictional series that mirrors Grafton's Alphabet series through a slightly warped mirror. Two of the titles: A is for Train, and Q is for Gardens.

Some authors include references to themselves or to other books they have written. Abigail Timberlake, star of the "Den of Antiquity" mystery series, occasionally mentions a "frizzy-haired" mystery author in town, an indirect reference (or so I assume) to series author, Tamar Myers.

This type of self-reference can be easy to miss. You only "get it" if you have the right frame of reference.

I recently ran across a nice example in Dead Men Don't Lye, by Tim Myers. (afaik, unrelated to Tamar). In chapter 4, protagonist Benjamin Perkins is visitng a local mystery bookshop, "Dying To Read". While waiting to speak to the owner/manager:

'... I looked over the display table where that month's best sellers were stacked and glanced at some of the covers.I was studying the crazy image of a lighthouse in the middle of a mountain range when ...'

If I hadn't read Innkeeping With Murder before I read Dead Men Don't Lye, I would never have caught the reference.


It's an Inside Joke ( in category Books, Movies, Music , Show & Tell , Special Interests ) - posted at Sat, 27 Jan, 14:52 Pacific | «e»