How to Write Parodies and Become Immortal
Kirkus Indie Review
Chambers (Parody, 2010) returns with a jocular instruction manual for creating and reveling in parodies of all sorts.
The author guides readers through the specific, example-oriented procedure of conceiving, writing and perfecting parodies in this witty, if at times unfocused, satirical manual. He begins with a dissection of three main categories of satire: “banging,” a head-on collision between a thing and its opposite; “binding,” productive tension between a thing and its opposite; and “blending,” the merging of the two. These and other “multistable” categories are explored in light of Chambers’ claim that “all multistable art is parodic, [and] that such art is, in fact, the hallmark of parody.” Chambers is pointed in his championing of parody, citing its generative effects throughout the history of literature: “For nearly two thousand years our forebears learned writing skills by copying, then parodically imitating exemplary texts on their way to flying off on their own.” While such claims are open to debate, the pragmatic approach Chambers employs in teaching the techniques of understanding and generating parodies is refreshingly straightforward. He encourages beginnings to try parodying newspaper articles or New Yorker notices, including (sometimes unwisely) many parodies of his own composition by way of examples. The book itself operates as a parody of do-it-yourself manuals with similarly grandiose titles. Chambers writes, “What sets the parody apart from mere simple irony (which is certainly present) is its hoaxy duality.” That duality is cheerfully present on every page of this book. Chambers’ own career as a published parodist spanned only three years (1978–1981) and a small handful of venues, but the usefulness of his exercises and insights here speaks of a lifetimes’ study.
A quick, detailed introduction to the technique of parody.
How To Write Parodies and Become Immortal
Reviewed By Melissa Wuske
Four Stars (Out of Five)
Parody is everywhere today. From The Onion to The Colbert Report, from Saturday Night Live to The Office, people love to make fun of things. Robert Chambers, a decorated journalist and college literature teacher, gives readers How to Write Parodies and Become Immortal, a humorous companion piece that supplements and contrasts with his more serious book, Parody: The Art That Plays With Art. Through his new book, writers can learn the skills of the craft.
How to Write Parodies and Become Immortal is a highly educational how-to book that helps writers of all stripes create funny, pointed parodies. Chambers asserts that most of us are born parodists. His goal is to “restore the kind of childhood parodic invention that was once a virtually automatic part of your verbal and histrionic arsenal.”
In this volume, Chambers offers genuine instruction in a sarcastic, self-deprecating tone. He focuses on simple spoof parodies, and he organizes the book around the three major variations of parody: banging, binding, and blending. This approach lends structure to playfulness—and vice versa. The author explains key terms, discusses the importance of contrasting comedic elements, and shows how to add variations and iterative details within each type of parody.
Chambers fleshes out common writing aphorisms like “write what you know” for parody writers. “Select raw and bloody chunks from your own miserable Life Story,” he suggests, “the more grotesque and humiliating the better, because these are the choicest candidates for the parodic assembly line.” Statements such as this exemplify the unity between Chamber’s tone and his instruction.
The book is chock full of illustrative examples of parody, though some are dated (a fact the author admits in the introduction). The book also contains a surprising number of useful charts, diagrams, and worksheets to help writers organize and envision their work. Readers also get the added benefit of a special section on poetry.
In the introduction, Chambers explains how this book came to be: He had wanted to include this instructional material in his last book, but his editor chose otherwise. Between the particulars of that story, the satirical subject matter, and the occasionally pedantic tone, it sometimes feels like Chambers is writing for himself more than anyone else, which can be off- putting in an instructional book.
Chambers undoubtedly knows his subject matter and has sought to delve intelligently into an often-dismissed genre. Readers who want to write well-crafted parodies will benefit from his
instruction and find this book downright humorous and educational.