Since 1997, you’ve been coming to BarnesandNoble.com to discuss everything from Stephen King to writing to Harry Potter. You’ve made our site more than a place to discover your next book: you’ve made it a community. But like all things internet, BN.com is growing and changing. We've said goodbye to our community message boards—but that doesn’t mean we won’t still be a place for adventurous readers to connect and discover.

Now, you can explore the most exciting new titles (and remember the classics) at the Barnes & Noble Book Blog. Check out conversations with authors like Jeff VanderMeer and Gary Shteyngart at the B&N Review, and browse write-ups of the best in literary fiction. Come to our Facebook page to weigh in on what it means to be a book nerd. Browse digital deals on the NOOK blog, tweet about books with us,or self-publish your latest novella with NOOK Press. And for those of you looking for support for your NOOK, the NOOK Support Forums will still be here.

We will continue to provide you with books that make you turn pages well past midnight, discover new worlds, and reunite with old friends. And we hope that you’ll continue to tell us how you’re doing, what you’re reading, and what books mean to you.

Reply
Inspired Scribe
IBIS
Posts: 1,735
Registered: ‎11-22-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Use of Humor in The Believers

I thought Heller's use of metaphors and similes were well done. I know that some authors overuse them... but in this instance I don't think they're superfluous. The metaphors are couched in a wry, gentle sense of humor....  they are not mean-spirited; they poked a gentle fun at them. 

 

They revealed to me, the author's fondness for her characters... I read in them the overall sensibility that Zoe Heller is very fond of them... in spite of some of their unlikeability.

 

For example, to describe that Joel had straight white teeth is merely descriptive... but when they're described as straight and white as bathroom tiles.... she gives the reader an image with amazing visual clarity... as well as an added gentle poke of fun... the idea that this radical lawyer is a dentist's dream....

 

IBIS 

 

IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
Frequent Contributor
VictoriousMary
Posts: 48
Registered: ‎09-11-2008
0 Kudos

Re: The Use of Humor in The Believers

Okay, I confess when reading about the visit to the rabbi's house and the light and the bathroom and pee in the dark, I was thinking is this supposed to be funny?  But it was ridiculous kind of funny.  And her thoughts about showering and dressing and then going to bed with a mouth full of what had to be toothpaste - it is religion lived out of place.  That is not what God is really expecting or talking about.

 

And the comment about the poor girl being a woman's libber - please, give me a break.  It is laughable but in a creepy way.  This rabbi family cannot be real.  Nor can the rabbi be real in helping to assist his new convert.  She is bound to bolt with the assistance he is giving her.

 

And, yes, the new friend who nearly breaks her back trying to get a patient to release his neckhold, is very laughable.  I just finished that section.  I am wondering if that is foreshadowing of what is to be.  He starts his relationship to her so forcefully.  He seems overbearing in his attempts to get to know her.  How many strangers to you know who follow you into your office.  He seems not to know his boundaries even though he knows she is married.

 

It is laughable in slap stick humorous scenes.  Is this comic relief to an otherwise tragic story of a broken family?

Victorious Mary
Contributor
minyades
Posts: 5
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Use of Humor in The Believers

I have to agree with Ibis about the simile/metaphor usage in the novel. For me it enhances my reading experience  by adding a richness to the language, and I see the characters and their environments in a different light. For example, when Rosa watches the Torah being handled {page 61} "undressing it and dandling it and parading it about as if it were an adored infant" that evokes for me as the reader a very vivid image and response. And then when she concludes that the service "had a faintly preposterous, Masonic quality, but it was not, she conceded, without its anthropological charm" I experience a whole different reaction to the scene.
Distinguished Wordsmith
Carmenere_lady
Posts: 529
Registered: ‎11-05-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Use of Humor in The Believers

[ Edited ]

Thanks everyone for responding to my impromptu question.  Just wanted to weigh in......I agree with what you've all stated.  You've really opened my eyes to Heller's metaphoric nuances.  I don't believe I glided over alot of these. It's amazing how much description she can include in one sentence while other author's offer up wordy descriptive passages that take paragraphs.  What an art form it is to be so concise, it's beautiful.  I admire that in her writing. 


minyades wrote:
I have to agree with Ibis about the simile/metaphor usage in the novel. For me it enhances my reading experience  by adding a richness to the language, and I see the characters and their environments in a different light. For example, when Rosa watches the Torah being handled {page 61} "undressing it and dandling it and parading it about as if it were an adored infant" that evokes for me as the reader a very vivid image and response. And then when she concludes that the service "had a faintly preposterous, Masonic quality, but it was not, she conceded, without its anthropological charm" I experience a whole different reaction to the scene.


 

Message Edited by Carmenere_lady on 10-26-2008 07:04 PM
Lynda

"I think of literature.....as a vast country to the far borders of which I am journeying but will never reach."
The Uncommon Reader


"You've been running around naked in the stacks again, haven't you?"
"Um, maybe."
The Time Traveler's Wife

It is with books as with men; a very small number play a great part.
Voltaire
New User
pocogirl
Posts: 3
Registered: ‎10-08-2008
0 Kudos

Re: The Use of Humor in The Believers

Overall, I would not say that the book was "funny", but it did have some moments that made me laugh out loud.  A couple of moments that I thought were comical or at least provided some comic relief were Rosa's comment to Jane indicating the state of Lenny's health "the morning after".  Then there was Rosa's reaction to Carol, Mrs. Levine and her unenviable task of foraging at the mikvah.  And at Audrey's birthday party when she made the comment to Rosa about one of the dishes having pork in it.  Finally, when she was having a discussion with the rabbi about her commitment to the faith and the orthodox lifestyle and translates his meaning as "No more Mr. Nice Guy.  It was time to **bleep** or get off the pot."  There was something humorous to me about the irreverence of Rosa's translation of a highly respected and religious man.

 

It seemed that I took a lot of joy in Rosa's frustrations in life, however in some respects I can sympathize with her.  I, like Rosa, things myself way to serious at times and as a result, it has a tendency to comes at times and bite me in the rear.

 

I will say however, there was one quote in the book that for me was quite thought-provoking and inner reflective,  it came from Rabbi Reinman when he was speaking to Rosa and he said to her "God doesn't need our perfect understanding or our perfect faith.  What he wants is our commitment, our actions.".  For me that statement was quite revelatory.

 

 

 

Inspired Scribe
IBIS
Posts: 1,735
Registered: ‎11-22-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Use of Humor in The Believers

Minyades, what a wonderful post...

 

I'm glad you picked those metaphors of Rosa's inarticulate perceptions at the synagogue... I too was struck by the force of those clear images ... the adored infant metaphor, and the Masonic, anthropological charm of the service itself...

 

Again and again, I would smile at the gentleness of the humor. I responded very positively to Rosa's inarticulate fears.... as if the author is saying.... yeah-this-religion-business-is-new-and-scary... and-how-can- you-explain-what's-going-on-here,,,

 

In other words, the metaphors revealed an added dimension to Rosa's introduction to her faith... It's almost as if Zoe Heller is telling both Rosa and the readers.... don't take yourself so seriously... we're all friends here.

 

IBIS 

IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
Inspired Correspondent
Bonnie824
Posts: 951
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Use of Humor in The Believers

I usually like dark humor in books and I think I would have in this one if it was the characters I liked who were thinking wryly of what had happened as funny. The way people in horrible situations can make fun of themselves and laugh at stuff that happens. I didn't read this book that way though. The dark humor seemed like someone even less likable outside these people making fun of them.
New User
hobbygirl
Posts: 2
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Use of Humor in The Believers

Audrey is a hoot!! In some ways, she ticked me off with her sarcasm and then she would say something totally off the wall and I found myself laughing out loud!
Frequent Contributor
wendyroba
Posts: 58
Registered: ‎02-21-2007
0 Kudos

Re: The Use of Humor in The Believers

I'm nearly done with Part II and I *do* find this book humorous. Heller uses irony and metaphor very well...I found myself laughing at things which really should not be funny, but were...and I think the use of humor is an effective tool to look at the ridiculous over-dramatization we tend to see in politics and religion. When belief systems go too far, they become almost ludicrous...and Heller demonstrates that with these characters.
Frequent Contributor
mwinasu
Posts: 149
Registered: ‎02-02-2008
0 Kudos

Re: The Use of Humor in The Believers

Liberal- Jew- Fat girl- Religious nut- Arab- Union Organizer- Adulterer- Black Girl - Gay - Might Be Gay- Menopausal- Comatose.  I remember a long time ago I saw a monologue by Bill Cosby that was so funny.  He started talking about how kids tend to annoy him.  They smell funny , they don't know how to eat right, they are always in trouble, they take your stuff and lie ;there was a lot more but it was so long ago that I have forgotten it.  Then he started talking about old people and he used the same words.  I was young and so that was pretty funny too.  Then he started talking  about hippies, well that wasn't so funny. He talked about Blacks ,Jews, Gays, Fat girls - by the time he got to foreigners it wasn't funny anymore. I think this book is about how what we believe affects how we see ourselves and others.  It is a joke shared with the reader, and I must admit that I got caught.  And that is what makes it brilliant.

Correspondent
PinkPanther
Posts: 52
Registered: ‎10-26-2008
0 Kudos

Re: The Use of Humor in The Believers

So far, I am on Chapter 3 of The Believers and I have not sensed that much humor in the book. I had one chuckle, but that is about it. Maybe as I go on reading further, I will see more humor.
"I ought, therefore I can"
-Immanuel Kant
Moderator
KxBurns
Posts: 1,006
Registered: ‎09-06-2007
0 Kudos

Re: The Use of Humor in The Believers


wendyroba wrote:
I'm nearly done with Part II and I *do* find this book humorous. Heller uses irony and metaphor very well...I found myself laughing at things which really should not be funny, but were...and I think the use of humor is an effective tool to look at the ridiculous over-dramatization we tend to see in politics and religion. When belief systems go too far, they become almost ludicrous...and Heller demonstrates that with these characters.

 

Exactly! In exposing the rigidity and the hypocrisy of her characters, Heller makes some incisive commentary; but by milking it for laughs, she takes the sting off. It reads as less condemnatory and more just a depiction of one aspect of human foibles.
Inspired Contributor
Jo6353
Posts: 683
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Use of Humor in The Believers


TrishNYC wrote:
Nikkid, I have to agree with you and say that I did not find much humor in this book. Maybe I was so caught  in the amazingly self centered world that most of the characters lived in that I was more appalled and saddened than amused. Audrey has to be one of the most unlikeable character that I have read before. She is brash, very, very harsh and believes so superbly in her ability to be right in every situation. There were a few moments of horrified amusement but they were fleeting and I don't remember them all. When the girls at Rosa's after school program first started their dance routine, I was horrified and amused by the gyrating dances that they came up with. But it was more in that "oh lord, this is so uncomfortable and the only reaction I can come up with to cover my horror is amusement" kinda way. The dinner party scene had quite a few moments that in another book I would probably have found hilarious. But for me finding it in a book with this tone, was yet another example of the self centered and aggrieved universe this family inhabited. 

I too found this book to be sad and depressing.  Jo

Frequent Contributor
Guerneymember12
Posts: 48
Registered: ‎09-21-2008
0 Kudos

Re: The Use of Humor in The Believers

I feel like the one with no sense of humor, but I could not find myself laughing at this family.  Only at times Audrey.  I thought she acted very hypocritically as the woman with the dreadlocks hanging around her home asks to speak with her when Audrey walks up with Jean.  I could picture them (Audrey and Jean) hunkering over and scooting backwards, while threatening to call 911.  It's also Very funny how she feels she must act around her maid - to somehow prove she is not oppressing the very people she fights for. ex she won't take a nap while the maid is working, she feel as if she must also be doing something.  so the  more I think I do find humor, but its mostly in Audrey, the others feel so very sorry for and at the same time want to slap the stupidity out of them.  And when I do see these problems in other, the comparisons still do not make the book humorous to me.

However, what I was awed by as I read was the originality and yes, humor in her similes and metaphors.  You don't see that anymore.  IBIS made a list of these on 10-23 so I won't rehash them, but they're GENIUS. A perfect example for any writing teacher to use on metaphors. awesome.

Frequent Contributor
READERJANE
Posts: 63
Registered: ‎01-21-2008
0 Kudos

Re: The Use of Humor in The Believers

This was a good observation. I also found myself thinking that both Audrey and Joel were very concerned about appearance and all the trappings that money could buy. The fact that Joel made SUnday diner in an old bathrobe and run down slippers did not take away from the fact that in public he was very much GQ
Moderator
KxBurns
Posts: 1,006
Registered: ‎09-06-2007
0 Kudos

Re: The Use of Humor in The Believers

I think the term I would use to describe the humor in ths book is viciously funny. And that is an uncomfortable kind of humor, particularly because it's frequently at odds with another aspect of the novel, political correctness.
Frequent Contributor
READERJANE
Posts: 63
Registered: ‎01-21-2008
0 Kudos

Re: The Use of Humor in The Believers

I think that this juxtaposition of vicious humor and political correctness underscores a palpable tension within Audrey. One one hand she wants to be this paragon of radical correctness , i.e Joel's helpmate in the cause,and on the other hand there are parts of her life with the family and Joel that have made her into a shadow figure, again Joel's helpmate in the home , and the humor is her way of striking back at those close to her.  Of course, she might get a resolution to her "situation" if the people she was striking out at had a clue as to what their role iis in her life of frustration. Heller has made this character interesting.
Contributor
EJD0626
Posts: 11
Registered: ‎09-13-2008
0 Kudos

Re: The Use of Humor in The Believers

I found Audrey to be the funniest character. I didn't really think the others were that funny, but Audrey was so deliciously evil. It was hard not to laugh at her.
Inspired Bibliophile
thewanderingjew
Posts: 2,247
Registered: ‎12-18-2007
0 Kudos

Re: The Use of Humor in The Believers

I thought that the humor was sarcastic and sometimes maybe even insulting at times, but being Jewish, I was able to laugh at myself as well as at some of the characters and their experiences.
If the author wasn't Jewish, I might not have been as generous since I worried at times that it would come off anti-semitic to those who weren't Jewish and thought they might not understand what the author was trying to portray and could possibly get a bad opinion of Jews from some of the scenes.
If the author wasn't Jewish, the comments would have had different innuendos, for me. It's kind of like when people say, I can criticize my mom but don't you dare! The interpretation of the message depends on who the messenger is, I think. Is that an unfair comment or a biased way to look at this?
Perhaps i feel that it is not politically correct for an "outsider" (someone not Jewish) to poke fun at the Jews because it is hard to know what the real agenda would be.
twj

KxBurns wrote:
I think the term I would use to describe the humor in ths book is viciously funny. And that is an uncomfortable kind of humor, particularly because it's frequently at odds with another aspect of the novel, political correctness.

 

Frequent Contributor
lamorgan
Posts: 62
Registered: ‎01-19-2007
0 Kudos

Re: The Use of Humor in The Believers

Although the book isn't always laugh-out-loud funny, it does have that dry humor so common among the British people. And we must remember that Audrey is from Europe and her personality will obviously influence and transfer to her children, as well as her husband. Zoe Heller does a wonderful job of bringing that trait across the pages to the reader.