Tag Archives: humor

The Fourth Bear by Jasper Fforde

The Fourth Bear by Jasper Fforde (unabridged audiobook read by Simon Vance; 11 hrs on 9 discs): Oh, goodness, I’m not even sure where to start. The Gingerbread Man is a psychotic killer who escapes from jail. Goldilocks is found dead in a partly-finished WWI theme park. Sinister events plague the cutthroat world of competitive cucumber-growing. Bears deal in illicit porridge paraphernalia. Punch and Judy are marriage counselors. The whole thing is absolutely ridiculous, but Detective Jack Spratt is on the case. I got quite a few chuckles out of this one, but most of the really good laughs were from the excerpts from The Barkshire Bumper Book of Records at the beginning of each chapter. If you’re familiar with nursery rhymes and enjoy absurd humor, you’ll probably enjoy this one. I don’t know how well it stands on its own, but as the sequel to The Big Over Easy it’s quite entertaining. Too bad Fforde hasn’t written any more in this series.

A note on the audio: The first book in this series, The Big Over Easy, was narrated by Simon Prebble. Previously I’d only heard Vance read more serious books, like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It was fun listening to him read this bit of silliness, but I’m not sure how I would have felt if I’d listened to the books back to back.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (original BBC radio broadcast)

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Original BBC Radio Broadcast): Before the movie, before the television series, and even before the book, there was the radio play. Of course, all versions and adaptations were written by Douglas Adams, so it’s hard to call any of them the Real Version, but they all follow more or less the same story. Either way, this was the First Version.

As you know if you’re at all familiar with HHGTTG, the story begins with hapless human Arthur Dent and his alien pal Ford Prefect escaping the Earth moments before it is destroyed to create an interstellar bypass. Shortly thereafter they meet up with multi-headed alien Zaphod Beeblebrox, his female companion Trillian, and depressed robot Marvin. The whole thing is absolutely ridiculous and utterly marvelous. I would suggest reading the book first as a sort of warm-up, because the radio show is even more random, if you can believe it. Things just sort of happen and you have to just go with it. There are plenty of wonderfully quotable lines and if you’re already a fan of the books, this is a fun walk down memory lane. The voice actors are marvelous, though I confess there were times when I wasn’t sure whether it was Ford or Arthur speaking. Not that it mattered much. All in all, it’s a great time, and well worth it for any fan of absurdity.

Note on my version: A friend taped this off the radio when it was originally broadcast back in the late 1970s and recently digitized it. There’s a fair bit of tape hiss but I had almost no problem hearing and understanding everyone. One thing he noted, however, is that the version that was offered commercially had different sound effects and music due to copyright issues. Evidently the interstitial music played on the radio version was fair game, but all sorts of rights needed to be purchased in order to sell the recording. I have not listened to the commercial version, so I cannot comment on those differences. I linked to the remastered CD because the version I have, rather by definition, is not available for purchase.

P.S. – Happy birthday to my sweetie!

The Daria Diaries by Anne D. Bernstein

The Daria Diaries by Anne D. Bernstein: I remember watching the show back when it was first on, but either I didn’t watch much or I’ve forgotten most of it in the intervening fifteen years, because parts of this book were quite unfamiliar to me. Or it could be that I’ve simply outgrown the high school angst and boredom that’s so smartly satired here. (Nah!) It was a nice distraction while I suffered from a nasty ear infection, but all in all I think this book would be better suited to a diehard fan of the show. Which is, to be fair, who it was written for in the first place. It doesn’t stand on its own that well.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

The Areas of My Expertise by John Hodgman

The Areas of My Expertise by John Hodgman: I picked up this book because the cover was completely plastered with tiny text so ridiculous that I knew I needed it. This is more or less a book of trivia – trivia that is entirely composed of lies. And a weird obsession with hobos. It probably would be better read a little bit at a time rather than straight through like I did, but there were certainly some very funny tidbits of random. I think I was most amazed at the fact that pretty much every single footnote, no matter how absurd, actually did refer to another section of the book. Including, for example, beard trends. Look, I don’t know. If you think non sequiturs are funny, this is probably the book for you.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie

The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie (unabridged audiobook read by Simon Prebble; 10.75 hours on 9 CDs): Thomas Lang somehow manages to get himself entangled in a high-stakes game of intrigue in this tale which comes across as almost a spoof of the spy genre. Lang himself is absolutely hysterical – I laughed aloud many times. His random commentary just tickled me. As for the story, I liked that I didn’t always know what was going to happen next, without feeling like everything was being pulled out of thin air. And, as usual, I am having a terrible time thinking of things to say about a book I really enjoyed, except to say that I enjoyed it. I wish Laurie would write more fiction.

A note on the audio: I really wish Laurie had read this himself, but Prebble did a fine job (as usual). Except his American accent was kind of…bad. Especially for the female characters. But that’s okay. I still had a great time.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster

Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster: Lancaster was living the good life, with a huge Chicago apartment, a huge paycheck, a huge shopping problem, and a huge ego. Then she gets laid off and spends the next couple years unemployed. This sort of major reality check wouldn’t have been nearly as entertaining were Lancaster not so unafraid to paint herself in a less than flattering light. And she is hilarious. She writes in such a way that I can completely hear her voice and inflection. The footnotes were often even funnier than the main text. If you’re looking for a fun beach read, this is a good bet.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

The Best of Shrdlu by Denys Parsons

The Best of Shrdlu by Denys Parsons: Though I thought this was going to be a book about unfortunate typographical errors, it’s more than that. These are excerpts from books, magazines, and even short stories where the author’s intended meaning has somehow gone awry, whether due to misprint, mixed metaphors, unfortunate word choice, or subject matter. That last took me a while to get, because there are indeed a number of stories that appear to be exactly as printed, and are just so unusual as to be amusing. I will admit that I did not find the humor in all of them, and at times I was frankly puzzled before deciding to write it off to some unintentional double entendre that only makes sense if you’re familiar with the most obscure British slang. All the same, it was good for the occasional giggle.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Merciful Flush by Lane Manion

Merciful Flush by Lance Manion: A rambling collection of essays, anecdotes, and assorted madness. The punctuation leaves a lot to be desired, but despite that it’s still quite readable. The humor often borders on the demented, sort of a cross between David Sedaris and Happy Tree Friends. There were parts where I laughed, parts where I cringed, and even a few parts where I was tempted to skim – but most of it was quite unforgettable either way. I may think of one story in particular every time I take a shower for the rest of my life. If you’re looking for something well outside the mainstream, this will probably amuse you. I’d like to read more of Manion’s blather because much of it is really quite funny, but I think I’ll wait until it’s visited a proofreader first.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

America: The Book by Jon Stewart

America (The Book) by Jon Stewart and the writers of the Daily Show: A satirical take on your standard US history textbook. It’s a bit dated, having been published eight years when we were in the thick of the Bush administration, but there are still plenty of funny bits. I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of the founding of America. Some of the modern references fell a little flat, but I’m not really big on political humor in the first place. If you are, then you will almost undoubtedly get a kick out of this.

Beginner’s Luck by Laura Pedersen

Beginner’s Luck by Laura Pedersen: When high school and her ginormous family get to be too much for her, Hallie drops out and gets a job as a yard person for the rather eccentric Stockton family. Here she meets kooky aging activist Olivia; the Judge, her husband suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease; her fabulous son Bernard who deals in antiques; and Gil, Bernard’s relatively sane husband. (And a chimp, but that’s not important right now.) Though a longtime and pretty successful gambler, Hallie soon finds herself spending all her time with the hospitable (and often very, very funny) Stocktons. This is not a book I would have picked up had it not landed in my hands courtesy of a generous BookCrosser, but I’m so glad I did. The characters were brilliant, the plot more or less believable (I’m still not convinced putting money in someone else’s parking meter is actually against the law), and perhaps most importantly, it made me want to put forth more effort toward making my house a home. Definitely a good beach read.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

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