The BJR Journal: From Caricature to Chiaroscuro
Do authors tend to become less satirical and more serious, with regard to their writing, as they get older?
Some examples which should support my view include:
- Philip Roth whose early novels include Goodbye Columbus (1959) and Portnoy's Complaint (1969) both comic and satirical portrayals of Jewish morals and attitudes of the time. His later work turned quite serious with novels like Sabbath's Theater, American Pastoral and The Human Stain.
- Thomas McGuane with early work like The Sporting Club (1969), The Buswhacked Piano (1971), and Ninety-Two in the Shade (1973), all darkly comic took a sharp turn after his 1978 autobiographical novel Panama to a more restrained tone in work like Nobody's Angel (1981) Nothing But Blue Skies and the short story collection, Gallatin Canyon.
- John Irving's early novels The Water Method Man, The 158 Pound Marriage, and The World According to Garp were all darkly comic though later The Ciderhouse Rules marked a change in tone to the more straightforward and politically driven work that would come to be his trademark style.
This of course is not to say all satirists grow more sincere as they age. Think of Swift, Vonnegut, Nabokov; all employing humorous parody to the end. But I do feel many writers begin their career with caricature and slowly hone their craft to either more realistic or subtle impressionistic prose, a chiaroscuro of literary style.