Monday, May 12, 2008
monday book review: mcsweeney's joke book of book jokes
A quick look back at my past few reviews made me realize I've been reading some pretty heavy stuff as of late, so it might be time to lighten up. That realization, coupled with the fact that life has recently provided me with all sorts of ways to test my sense of humor, led me to McSweeney's newest release: The McSweeney's Joke Book of Book Jokes by the editors of McSweeney's - a collection of spoofs, lists and letters inspired by famous writers and works.

(Yes, I would be the nerd whose pulse goes all fluttery at the prospect of a book filled with jokes about books. Shut up.)

As John Hodgman writes in the book's introduction,
(T)hese are all original pieces of humorous writing that are joined together merely by their appreciation of the intrinsic and unique hilariousness of books...We all know that books are funny. First, they are made of paste and cloth, which is funny, as is the fact that people still read and buy them. Also, books connote a sort of intellectual stuffiness, which is always easy and appealing to make fun of. It's humanizing.
He's being silly, but it's also the truth. Making fun of Jean-Paul Sartre's morose intellect, Ernest Hemingway's bloated male ego and Emily Dickinson's poetic melancholy is fun - especially if you're someone like me whose education has forced her to read No Exit more times than she cares to recall.

Fortunately, not all the jokes revolve around James Joyce (although several do), so an English major is not necessarily a prerequisite. In fact, my favorite pieces are ones like Thirteen Writing Prompts and A Serial Killer Explains the Distinctions Between Literary Terms, where the joke comes more from literary devices rather than specific books or authors.

Of course, the actual book jokes are fun too, with Jean-Paul Sartre, 911 Operator; Rough Drafts Of Jenna Bush's Young-Adult Novel; Bedtime Stories By Thom Yorke; and Phrases On The Marquee At The Local Strip Club To Cater To A More Literate Crowd being among my favorites.

In short, if you're a fan of McSweeney's and at all literary-minded, it's very much worth your time. And now I'll close with my favorite piece from the book, written by Andrew Tan:
Holden Caulfield Gives the Commencement Speech To His High School

You're all a bunch of goddamn phonies.

The McSweeney's Joke Book of Book Jokes
By the Editors of McSweeney's, with an Introduction by John Hodgman
2008, 217 pages

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