Take a story's temperature by studying its tone. Is it hopeful? Cynical? Snarky? Playful?
Lighthearted, but sad
Maniac has a tough journey, and as funny as things get, the tone lets us know that this is serious business. Check out this paragraph for a good example:
Grayson had brought over a record player a week before, along with his entire music collection: thirty-one polka records. Grayson loved polkas.
Of course, one cannot listen to polka music for long before getting up and dancing, which is what the two thanksgivers did as soon as their bloated stomachs allowed. They danced and they laughed, record after record. Whether it was the polka that they danced is another questions. (29.13-14)
Funny: dancing the polka.
Sad: that it's a washed-up old man and a homeless orphan doing the dancing.
Funny: trying to dance on a belly full of Christmas dinner.
Sad: their Christmas dinner is taking place in a park and it was cooked on a hot plate and toaster oven.
Do you see our point? We're never quite sure whether to laugh or to cry.