Professor Askin Ozcan is the creator of the hilarious humorous fantasy The Second Venice. Published in the later part of 2005, Askin’s book presents a wonderful mix of creative imagination, socio-political satire, edgy wit, and lighthearted debate over issues of global import. It was fortunate not to miss talking to this talented author who now teaches in Sweden and contributes to quality literature with his pen and mind. Terse in his answers, Askin shared his thoughts about humor and his books.
An Interview with Askin Ozcan
Ernest: Askin, kindly tell us a little about your academia and publications?
Askin: I earned my Bachelor in Architecture from the University of Toronto after studying at METU (Ankara), Urbanization (York University, Toronto), and I also have a diploma in T.E.F.L from the Institute of Pedagogy in Istanbul.
I published a picture reportage about USA at the age of seventeen in Turkey’s leading weekly HAYAT. Later, I published the University student paper at METU,
And then worked as a reporter for Travel Trade Gazette International (UK) in Turkey. I wrote 75 articles for Turkey’s leading daily HURRIYET and many articles on education in Sweden, and peace education in India.
My books include THE SECOND VENICE, SMALL MIRACLES (by Outskirts Press), and my poetry book LIGHTNING AND A BOUQUET OF ROSES (by Publish America) which brought me two invitations to the International Society of Poets Contest as a finalist. I also won a medal as The Poetry Ambassador of the USA. Recently my poem THUNDERSORM won the Best Poem of 2006 prize at MUSES REVIEW U.S.A.)
Two more books of mine have been published a few weeks ago. These are titled WISDOM IN SMILE and STOCKHOLM STORIES (both by Xlibris).
Ernest: Where do you trace the word ‘humor’ back in your life?
Askin: I was born in Turkey where humor is an important aspect of life and literature and film and theater. My father, a school principal, was also a very humorous man.
Ernest: When and how did you start writing?
Askin: Well it was in my school days. In those school years, I was the best in the class in composition writing.
Ernest: What humor writers have carved their good influence upon your tastes?
Askin: I can’t remember the names of all the writers big and small from many nations.
In Turkey, Aziz Nesin is one name. Many Turkish, Russian, Persian and other authors from the past, I have appreciated to read as well as the modern humorous magazines.
Ernest: Did you begin with humor?
Askin: Yes, both THE SECOND VENICE and WISDOM IN SMILE are humorous books.
Ernest: What inspired you to write The Second Venice?
Askin: A piece of news I had heard in the radio, that the Italian Govt. would limit the number of tourists to Venice to protect the City from pollution and destruction.
Ernest: Your humor, as it appears in The Second Venice, has much to do with stereotypes about nationalities, business, and clash of abstract values. Is it so?
Askin: More or less… I am a writer – not a psychoanalyst or art historian. I don’t like to deal with the analysis of art. I actually believe art should not be analyzed and described but be experienced. Of course, literary critics and art historians like to deal with the analyses of art. This can benefit the readers and the artists. But, I, as a writer am not in the field to criticize art. Every second I have, I put into writing.
I can criticize my own writing for myself- and I do it. But not publicly. As this is another profession’s job.
Ernest: What is the significance of humor in literature and in our real individual and social lives?
Askin: Humor is a good medicine. It relaxes and enriches our souls. It can also teach us things, if its contents contain knowledge. But its primary goal is to make us laugh.
Ernest: Do you see yourself as good at making people laugh in your real life?
Askin: Yes, I often tell good jokes to my friends and appreciate theirs.
Ernest: So what’s the difference between doing it in real life and writing it for the general readership?
Askin: No difference really. I don’t make money telling jokes to my friends and I don’t make money with my books either. There are millions of books, many worthless. I hope one day the readers will find their way to my books- which seems to require heavy advertising beside good quality of writing.
Ernest: Has your workplace experience contributed to your writing a book like The Second Venice?
Askin: My work place has been the world and my international life experience certainly has contributed to enrich my books.
Ernest: But why Venice? Why would you not choose Istanbul or Stockholm, or Rome etc. to create your comedy?
Askin: It was the radio news which sparked the idea of writing THE SECOND VENICE. If something sparks the idea of writing a second Istanbul, or Rome or New York, I can write it too. But I have a heavy writing program already. No time for additional books.
Ernest: There is a deluge of cheap and derogatory comedy in our media today, especially the electronic media, particularly the Internet. Do you agree?
Askin: I most certainly do. To earn money, much nonsense is being created. I write because I like. Not for money or fame. If I earn that is good. If I become famous doesn’t matter to me.
Ernest: Askin, you are now in your 60s, right?
Askin: I am 67 according to my papers. According to my feelings I am 27. According to my DNA probably I date back to the Cro- Magnon age.
Ernest: So do you think a ripe age heightens the good taste in humor? (if yes, how?)
Askin: I don’t think so. Children have their own humor. They laugh a lot and they can make grown ups laugh too. If they could write, I am sure they would be great humorists.
Ernest: Would you call The Second Venice a successful publication?
Askin: Yes. In a short time it won big recognition in many countries and its reviews appeared in USA, UK, Sweden, Turkey, Italy so far. It is unfortunate that it is sold on internet shops only. Bookshops buy on credit and my publisher sells only with advance payment. Bookshops are missing a big profit because they don’t carry THE SECOND VENICE. Of course one can order it from a book shop by giving its ISBN 1598000888.
Ernest: Is any other book of yours in progress now?
Askin: Yes. WISDOM IN SMILE is a wonderful collection of humorous short stories.
And STOCKHOLM STORIES is my memoirs of my life in my residence in Stockholm for thirty years. Both have been published a few weeks ago and are sold by firstname.lastname@example.org for now and will be sold by 200 internet shops in two months’ time and will be available in 25,000 bookstores.
Ernest: Thank you Askin for your precious time!
Ernest Dempsey is the pen name of Karim Khan who works as a research associate in geology and is doing his Master’s in English literature. A founding member of the World Audience Inc. (New York), Dempsey is the author of three books : The Biting Age, Islands of Illusion, The Blue Fairy and Other Stories. He writes articles, professional book reviews, essays and poetry.