One Person’s Ha Ha Ha is Another Person’s WTF

Humor. One person’s ha ha ha is another’s WTF. Humor is hard to write. Hard to predict. But those of us assembled at the Pickford the March Bookclub did our best.

Jean began as it was her topic, listing a number of books, including authors you might not instantly think of as funny. Nicholson Baker for one, his ANTHROPOLGIST is funny, as is Nick Hornsby’s A LONG WAY DOWN about three people on a rooftop, up there to commit suicide. Hmm…Not exactly a knee-slapping premise. He’s best known as the author of HI FIDELITY. She also recco’d Richard Russo’s NOBODY’S FOOL and its sequel EVERYBODY’S FOOL, both published in the 90’s and one made into a film with the wonderful Paul Newman.

Several of us cited Joseph Heller’s famous CATCH 22. Bob had a special connection to the book. He read it in 1961 when, in fact, he was in the Air Force, and living out all that military craziness.

Carol’s choice was another American classic, Kurt Vonnegut’s SLAPSTICK. Vonnegut is one of those authors who, if you read him at the right time of life, you never forget him, you always feel indebted to him. If not, you shake your head and wonder what everyone sees. With Carol I first read him at the right time, but when I returned to him, I found I had outgrown him, and this made me sad. Carol also loved two more modern books, THE ROSIE PROJECT and Sherman Alexie’s THE LONE RANGER AND TONTO FISTFIGHT IN HEAVEN. (In Alexie’s recent memoir, a decidedly unfunny book, I laughed out loud several times, and have since totally adopted his phrase: “Fuck you and the farmed salmon you rode in on.” The perfect PNW putdown.) Another PNW author who made our readers laugh is Tom Robbins with this TIBETAN PEACH PIE.

Carol also loved the classic TOM JONES, truly one of the funniest books ever written with an inimitable narrator who, when Tom is banging one of the local girls, writes things like “We prefer to draw the veil…..” If only the book weren’t so damn long, more people would read it. Other classic authors: both Laura R and Laura R and Frances both found Jane Austen’s work humorous, and Shakespeare’s MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING.

Other funny novels offered up: Christophoer Moore Lamb THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO BIFF HIS PAL (the his being Jesus), Bill Bryson’s NEITHER HERE NOR THERE, Rachel Cusak’s novels, including ARLINGTON PARK.

Jes, as ever, came up with the unique, Nicolas Searl’s 1983 retelling of Arthurian legends (a book none of us had ever heard of) RUDE TALES AND GLORIOUS.

For myself I offered up THE ARCHY AND MEHITABEL POEMS by Don Marquis, my original copy of which is long gone (I bought another right after this book club) but the witty lyrics still ring with me. Archy was the creation of Don Marquis, a proverbial hard-boiled newspaperman in the Thirties. He wrote and published these funny poems, I believe, for decades. The premise is this: in a former life Archy had been a vers libre poet, now confined to the body of a cockroach. He had to jump on his head on the typewriter keys to write these poems, thus there are no caps. Mehitabel is alley cat with her own unapologetic take on life. Her favorite refrain: “There’s a dance in the old dame yet.”

Which seems to me a fine way to greet life in general.

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