Mark Twain's sense of humor is peculiar, for want of a better word. I think I understand what he was trying to do here, but if I could sum this book uMark Twain's sense of humor is peculiar, for want of a better word. I think I understand what he was trying to do here, but if I could sum this book up in just one word, I would call it strange. I'm always amused when an author addresses the readers (say, in an introduction, or in an afterward) without actually breaking from the fiction of the narrative, and that seems to be the whole point of this revenge edition.
"The Amazing Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" is a short story about a man who gets roped into listening to another man who loves to hear himself talk. The poor guy has to sit through a stream of meaningless stories that don't seem to go anywhere, and he can't get a word in edgewise. The man talks about a horse, about a sick woman, about a dog, and of course, about a jumping frog. It's not my cup of tea, but I can appreciate the humor that comes first of all from the dialect, secondly from the archetype of the old-timer who leisurely rambles on about whatever comes into his head, and thirdly, and to a much lesser degree, the weird nature of the stories themselves.
This edition, however, isn't really about the original short story. Twain must have really loved framing because he takes his handful of stories within a story and shoves the whole lot into yet another story. Twain introduces the text by saying that he wants to rebut an unfavorable review about his talents as a humorist; his argument is that the reviewer (who was French) did not get to appreciate his work fully because he was reading a crummy translation that screwed up the humor of the tale. This introduction is some of the funniest prose in the book. Twain includes his original story, the French translation, and his English re-translation of the French.
It is here that the humor falls flat, at least for me. Twain's goal here is *not* to show his anglophone readers how the French experienced his work. His goal is to entertain, and he does this by offering a silly re-translation, mistranslating (I assume on purpose) so that he can poke fun at --what, exactly? French syntax? The lack of a French equivalent to an American southern drawl? The idea of translation? All of the above, perhaps. But what I don't understand is why. He claims to have done the translation himself, and he also claims not to speak French. These claims may or may not be true; I get the feeling he's spinning another yarn. And, as though to substantiate these claims, the translation is bad. I mean really, really bad. Again, I assume this is deliberate. How else would he get away with translating adjectives as nouns and treating single negations as double?
The actual story within a story within a story -- the actual part about a frog -- would not be interesting at all without the frame of the long-winded storyteller with a captive audience. Yet the pseudo-translation, which is hilarious by itself (seriously, just try to read it out loud with a straight face), loses all its power in the framing. Twain snarkily calls it a serious translation, and clearly he means it NOT to be, and somehow, this just seems like an odd vehicle for such a hatchet job.
But that's not all! What's a revenge translation without an epilogue? Twain tells of an encounter with a man who claims that the story of the jumping frog dates back to antiquity. According to the epilogue, this man produced a book containing an ancient Greek tale that is eerily close to Twain's story. At first, Twain says that he had not meant to repeat the story. He says that he had never heard of the story, and that the similarities are just a coincidence. Then, Twain claims that the stories are far too similar, and he realizes that the alleged ancient text was phony. I don't know how to respond to this, since I think there's a pretty good chance that the whole epilogue was phony. If so, it's perhaps one of the more interesting takes on an unreliable narrator. I have read fiction books with nonfiction, honest, serious introductions and afterwards. This was not one of them. Then again, it's Twain, so what did I expect?...more
I really enjoyed this book. I'm giving it five stars, but I really should add a disclaimer: the five stars are not to be taken as an endorsement of evI really enjoyed this book. I'm giving it five stars, but I really should add a disclaimer: the five stars are not to be taken as an endorsement of every joke. Some jokes are in poor taste, and some I just didn't get. That said, so many of the jokes that I *did* get were so side-splittingly funny that they were well worth the ones that fell flat. I can't remember when I had such an enjoyable time reading a book. I laughed out loud so often, reading by myself, that I was half afraid my family would hear me from the other room and have me committed. ...more
This was funny. Who'd have thought a bunch of commercials would so entertaining? I suppose I ought to have expected the Beeboporeebop Rhubarb Pie andThis was funny. Who'd have thought a bunch of commercials would so entertaining? I suppose I ought to have expected the Beeboporeebop Rhubarb Pie and the Buttermilk Biscuits, given their prominence on the radio show, but I was also really surprised by some of these jokes --er, I mean, "commercials." I also appreciated the Minnesota jokes, Lutheran jokes, coffee jokes, and English major jokes. I recommend this for anyone who enjoys Garrison Keillor; this production draws from many different elements that make PHC so appealing. It is humorous and warm....more
**spoiler alert** I loved it right up until the end; it was so funny, and Stephen King reads it with such energy and comedic timing. However, the dark**spoiler alert** I loved it right up until the end; it was so funny, and Stephen King reads it with such energy and comedic timing. However, the dark, disturbing conclusion (or lack thereof) really ruined it for me. I would give the first ninety percent five stars, but the ending gets two....more
This is a fantastic way to introduce Gilbert and Sullivan to children. It's a very nice selection--sixteen songs from eight operettas--and the piano aThis is a fantastic way to introduce Gilbert and Sullivan to children. It's a very nice selection--sixteen songs from eight operettas--and the piano arrangements are impressive, neither too complicated for the average player nor too simplistic to convey the splendor of the compositions. The book is filled with beautiful pictures, imaginative and whimsical. This book is gold....more
I'm not a huge fan of romances, so I'm probably not the best person to judge this. I don't think it was a "good" book, per se, and it seems especiallyI'm not a huge fan of romances, so I'm probably not the best person to judge this. I don't think it was a "good" book, per se, and it seems especially flawed when compared to the Stephanie Plum series, but Evanovich certainly scores points for keeping me entertained. While the premise is a little shaky and the characters start out pretty flat, the second half of the book really picks up, and parts of it are very funny. I liked the little mini-mystery; it's enough to keep the book from just being "romance," yet it's not serious enough to change the book's overall tone. (I don't tend to read many mysteries either, as I find them stressful. Yes, I know. I'm hard to please.) It's strange that a book that combines these two genres would appeal to me, but it does. Between the polite but inept (sorta) bad guys, the gun-wielding Grandma-Mazure-type old lady, and the refreshing way that the book doesn't make the mistake of taking itself seriously, I rather enjoyed it....more
Garrison Keillor shows his sense of humor and his musical talent in this brilliant collection. Frederica Von Stade shines, as always, and the writingGarrison Keillor shows his sense of humor and his musical talent in this brilliant collection. Frederica Von Stade shines, as always, and the writing is gold. This collection lacks any Lake Wobegon characters, but that might not be a bad thing since the wall-to-wall music helps keep the tone consistent throughout. This collection parodies music from Rossini to Johnny Cash, and it delivers plenty of laughs. This is a gem....more
If it were possible, I would probably give this about three and a half stars, which is a bit on the low side considering the high esteem in which I hoIf it were possible, I would probably give this about three and a half stars, which is a bit on the low side considering the high esteem in which I hold Keillor. The fact of the matter is that the individual tracks on this CD collection vary quite a bit in terms of content and style, and while some were hilarious, such as the humorous anecdotes and literary parodies, other parts were baffling or just plain depressing.
I recently majored in English, and I can certainly relate to most of his English-related humor. For example, this collection parodies classic literature: plays, poetry, and even a song. It also entertains with anecdotes of an English major's career, which includes, in this case, fast food (ha-ha). But there were some portions of the collection that seemed only tangentially related to the topic; that is, while the concept of writing was involved, neither writing nor humor was the focus. For example, there is a really depressing vignette about a pregnant teenager whose parents will disown her if she doesn't marry, but who is acutely aware of the sorrow and pain that such a marriage will bring. As she prepares for the big event, she is surrounded by aged married women telling her that marriage won't be that bad. Ouch. I know that Garrison Keillor doesn't always have happy endings, and I know, of course, that he often uses a measure of angst and a great deal of realism (and I would argue that realism is important and that GK generally uses it skillfully and to great effect) but this was just depressing as all get-out, even for him.
Do you see this? I'm an English major reduced to using phrases like "all get-out"!
Still, what's funny in this collection is very funny indeed. I particularly enjoyed the three(!) Shakespeare parodies....more
Surprisingly wonderful. This book features a strong story -- powerful and emotional -- and strong characters. Lincoln is very well-developed as a charSurprisingly wonderful. This book features a strong story -- powerful and emotional -- and strong characters. Lincoln is very well-developed as a character, and I was happy to see this book describe not just his political struggles, but also the tragedies in his personal life. A different main character, Henry, who is complete fiction, is nuanced and carefully written. Most importantly, this alternate-history novel approaches the real history and real Lincoln with reverence. Generally, this novel is a rewrite of history with the premise "What if vampires existed and had been involved in Lincoln's life and American politics?" I was surprised at the level of detail and the historical accuracy (which, for the most part, is sound). Best of all, although this novel seamlessly blends history with the fantasy of vampires, it also suggests that Abraham Lincoln, the true-life nonvampire-hunter Lincoln, was also heroic, hard-working, and worthy of every accolade and honor that his memory has received....more
This book was a joy. It is a collection of many different humorous poems; some describe the world in a strange new way, some tell stories, and some arThis book was a joy. It is a collection of many different humorous poems; some describe the world in a strange new way, some tell stories, and some are just fun to read aloud. These poems appeal to a child's imagination and offer laughter and adventure.
Although I myself am not a parent, somewhere deep inside me is a little voice telling me that despite dirty diapers, sleepless nights, and colic, it would be worth having children, just so I could read them this book. There is a sense of wonder in this book that I wouldn't have thought possible.