You need no ticket to make a place for yourself here where humor, black and otherwise, comes to you from the stage where the human comedy itself is being played, its performance trumping the things dark and tragic and found in the world of literature.
Scalzi on Zadie
As I know from hanging around his blog a bit, reading his Amazon Plog and picking up other Scalzi tidbits here and there John Scalzi
makes an effort to understand different points of view.
As far as the Zadie Smith essay he is analyzing is concerned: I wonder if his lack of understanding about her point of view ("Ms. Smith entirely loses me on this bit...") is based on the fact that she is considered a literary writer by most, while he is considered a genre one.
In that literary world Joyce's Ulysses has been called the best (or most important) novel ever written. And guess what -- it's a pain in the ass to read. How about Infinite Jest, another doorstop literary novel that has sold more copies than 95% of individual SF novels will ever sell? Talk about demanding heavy lifting (literally and literarily) from the reader!
Science fiction (of which John Scalzi is an obviously notable practitioner), seems to me to be a more limited form. Or should I say a form having more rules to adhere to in theme and construction and therefore less sloppy than a literary work that is anchored in nothing except the writer's imagination. Which is why SF appeals to more orderly -- if no less thoughtful -- readers. In short, if your science is right, the story constructed around it might be tighter than the literary one. Or at least it will appear so and also strike the reader as such.
But while the literary writers are trying to approximate a Poe-like intoxication in their own lives and supposedly in the service of their art (and yeah, I know this is like the old "I buy Playboy to read the articles" canard) the John Scalzi sort of writing mind would be examining -- from a safe distance -- Poe's artistic and inspiration-inducing intoxicated dream state, including what it encompasses and produces, in order to use it in a more orderly and rational work than the messy literary writers. I think this might address the acceptable level of obscurity Smith writes of and which John Scalzi has difficulty with in her essay, as he hews to truths of science (Apollonian) and produces works which the Dionysians of Smith's stable are incapable of.
Or something like that. This is just a blog post. I would be more careful, but to paraphrase Scalzi, nobody's paying me to blather on about the topic. And yeah, Smith chose Eliot to illustrate the boundries of metaphysics and mysticism at which the literary mind should stop, while I would pick Poe. To each their own...