Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Cheyenne library opens '10 with funny stuff

From Troy Rumpf on the LCLS blog at

We’re kicking the season off with something that really works well for all ages: Humor. While planning this, I was amazed at the bounty of humor-based materials that can be found at the library; I never thought about looking to mystery or sci-fi genres for anything funny or comedic, but oh how wrong I was. Actually, my personal preference for humor writing includes two of my favorite authors, David Sedaris and Augusten Burroughs (and FYI – if you ever get a chance to see them in person, DO SO!), and my colleagues as well as some great Southern friends swear that Celia Rivenbark has made them laugh out loud more than any other writer. Apparently, this caused a bit of embarrassment for one of my friends with a not-so-silent snort she let out as while reading one of these books on a cross-country flight. But that’s another story…

This is my kind of theme. So many humor writers and books I admire. I do confess to a bias toward dark humor which, to my thinking, is true humor. Ha-ha funny is great. I like some stand-up comedians and TV sit-coms and jokes, especially so-called stupid jokes. Horse walks into a bar. "Why the long face," asks the bartender.


But I have a long list of books that make me laugh out loud and feel and think.

Here they are in no particular order:

"The Tortilla Curtain" by T.C. Boyle. Because it's funny and outrageous and I get to laugh at pompous California Yuppies. For quick shots of dark humor, I turn to Boyle's short stories, such as "Sorry, Fugu" and "Descent of Man." Opening line: "I was living with a woman who suddenly began to stink."

We have to admit that Irish humor can be the most twisted and most fun. Boyle is a great example. As is Irish writer Flann O'Brien. Best book is "The Poor Mouth," in which the Irish tendency to wallow in poverty is satirized.

Irish treat satire reverently. Jonathan Swift and "A Modest Proposal" (Eat my baby -- please!). James Joyce and "Ulysses." One-time U.S. writer J.P. Donleavy ("The Ginger Man").

The Brits are no slackers in the humor department. The late Alan Coren is one of my faves. Read his essays "All You Need to Know About Europe" and try not to laugh at his biting comments of various Europeans. As for the Netherlands: "Apart from cheese and tulips, the main product of the country is advocaat, a drink made from lawyers."

Monty Python!

Enough about the Brits.

More humor writers whom I admire:

Mark Twain -- All the novels but especially like his takedown of the German language and "Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses"

Kurt Vonnegut's books -- all of them.

Joesph Heller's "Catch-22."

Grace Paley -- Her stories are masterpieces. "An Interest in Life" has one of the best openings in fiction: "My husband gave me a broom one Christmas. This wasn't right. No one can tell me it was meant kindly."

Flannery O'Connor --The humor in her stories comes from events bumping up against tragedy. When I first read "A Good Man is Hard to Find," the first few pages had me in stitches. Later on, I wondered if I was going to need stitches when The Misfit jumped out at me.

Woody Allen's short pieces in "Without Feathers" and "Getting Even" are terrific. Sure, I like most of his movies too, but how can you beat these lines from "If the Impressionists Had Been Dentists:"

Mrs. Sol Schwimmer is suing me because I made her bridge as I felt it and not to fit her ridiculous mouth! That's right! I can't work to order like a common tradesman! I decided her bridge should be enormous and billowing, with wild, explosive teeth flaring up in every direction like fire! Now she is upset because it won't fit in her mouth! She is so bourgeois and stupid, I want to smash her! I tried forcing the false plate in but it sticks out like a star burst chandelier.

Ditto Steve Martin's short pieces in "Pure Drivel."

National Lampoon writers who went on to stellar careers: P.J. O'Rourke, Anne Beatts, Michael O'Donohue, etc.

All those passed-away New Yorker writers: S.J. Perelman, Robert Benchley, James Thurber, Ring Lardner, Dorothy Parker, etc.

"One Hundred Years of Solitude" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez --For the writing and the humor.

Mystery writers Carl Hiaasen, Elmore Leonard, Janet Evanovich and Jerome Charyn. Note the Laramie County Library: Order some Charyn books already.

Cheyenne mystery writer C.J. Box writes this great opening line in "Savage Run:"

On the third day of their honeymoon, infamous environmental activists Stevie Woods and his new bride, Annabel Bellotti, were spiking trees in the forest when a cow exploded and blew them up. Until then, their marriage had been happy.

Gets better from there.

Some readers find Pete Dexter ("Paris Trout" and "Spooner") too violent. His humor lies within the violence and his incredible writing. In the tradition of Flannery O'Connor.

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