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Monday, June 24, 2013

Reader's Diary #1030- Kate LaDew: Carl the Speedy Eskimo

Unfortunately Atanarjuat does not translate to Carl.

In the mood for a humourous short story but something modern, I was fortunate enough to discover the comedy website The Higgs Weldon which offers everything from opinion pieces to short stories to cartoons. It's hard to know what to expect with comedy. What some people find hilarious, others find offensive. What some find delightfully gross, others find juvenile. What some find clever, some find pretentious. You get the idea.

When I saw the title of Kate LaDew's short story, "Carl the Speedy Eskimo," I have to admit that I got my back up a little. Full disclosure: I love offensive humour. However, only when everyone's on board. When you watch a roast, for instance, you should realize that everybody and everything is up for grabs. There are no sacred cows and if you're not okay with that, you have a choice not to watch, to leave the room. On the other hand, when someone tells an off-colour joke in the wrong setting, I can usually tell if there's something deeper going on. However, I've also been in too many situations in which some stranger will start on racist or sexist or homophobic jokes, and it's been horribly uncomfortable. Maybe it's the delivery, maybe it's the setting, maybe it's the fact that they've not yet gauged the room to know everyone's comfort level, nor have they yet established that they're not complete a-holes who wouldn't really stand behind their nasty words. I go through the whole debate about whether or not I should say something, settle on walking away, then regret it later as They Might Be Giants start singing "Your Racist Friend" in my brain:
This is where the party ends
I can't stand here listening to you
And your racist friend
I know politics bore you
But I feel like a hypocrite talking to you
And your racist friend

To ease everyone's mind, I don't think LaDew's story is out of line, despite the title. It's not that the Inuit are being used as a punchline and it's acknowledged early on that the more politically correct term is Inuit. In fact, the whole story begins with a guy writing a poem and looking for a word that rhymes with minute to which someone suggests Inuit. (I could point out that the proper pronunciation doesn't really rhyme with minute, but that'd probably be me being overly sensitive.)

On the humour side of things, it's not a bust a gut sort of story (though I just laughed myself stupid at the This is the End movie earlier this week and everything is going to pale in comparison), but it is an amusing tale, with its highly unlikely set-up. Basically a newspaper writer wonders if there is a speedy Eskimo named Carl and sets off to Alaska to find one. The final sentence suggests a more profound reason for the whole story, but it's a pseudo-moral. The real point is silliness.

(Did you write a post for Short Story Monday? If so, please leave a link in the comments below.)

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