I’m reading Jane Smiley’s Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel. (This passes as pleasure reading when compared to the stacks of Holocaust-themed YA books in my “to-read” list.) In her chapter titled “The Origins of the Novel,” she discusses Don Quixote as the first example of an authorial consciousness revealing itself to the reader. Of DQ she also writes: “As with many great works, the original stroke of genius by the author was coming up with a good, simple idea (a middle-aged gentleman who has read so many accounts of knightly courage that he decides to try it himself).”
Today’s equivalent? I mean, I could perhaps dream up a narrative in which a middle-aged man, inspired by the zeitgeist of, say, “do what you love” abandons his secure job and pension and launches his dream business of freelancing as a copywriter for the packaging of OTC pharmaceuticals. But this would be tragic and sad and pathetic. (Or is that my cynicism showing?)
Or, if we see the plot as an exploration of the confrontation between what the protagonist believes the world to be and what the world actually is, we could have, say a member of the 1% live on $30K/year and see what that offers up in the way of hilarity.
OR–middle-aged gentleperson, inspired by No Child Left Behind and the cottage industry of writing about What is Wrong With Education in America–goes to teach in a public school and ends every day curled up in a wee ball of tears under the desk, without the energy to get home. Oh, the funny is just there waiting to be written.