And thus it may, if the verbal effrontery of such an utterance may be indulged, however briefly, be averred, with the blessings of those guardians on...moreAnd thus it may, if the verbal effrontery of such an utterance may be indulged, however briefly, be averred, with the blessings of those guardians on the battlements of concinnity, even modestly asseverated, if such a contradiction does not run counter to said diction, that the author's style, with such a fecund profusion of subordinate and even, dare I say, insubordinate clauses, rococo verbal flourishes, and sesquipedialian agglomerations, while constructed with a labyrinthine ingenuity that even daedalus would praise, are not, in the firm belief of this author, in fact, funny at all.
However, the titular essay is still quite witty, and less guilty of the verbal excesses of the other essays in this collection. (less)
This quaint bit of ephemera from the 30s is not at all salacious, despite the enticements of its cover. "Making Love" is here used in its earlier sens...moreThis quaint bit of ephemera from the 30s is not at all salacious, despite the enticements of its cover. "Making Love" is here used in its earlier sense of wooing one's beloved; the most lurid passages within are merely detailed instructions on kissing. And it does make me wonder - when exactly did the phrase "making Love" lose this sense and simply become slang for intercourse? It's a pity we didn't hold on to its earlier meaning, with its suggestion that love was something to be worked at and shaped; an active creation, rather than something one simply "fell into."
Naturally much of the text is ridiculously dated, even offensively so (depending on one's stridency towards issues of gender politics). But some of the advice is as timeless as the subject matter itself. There is an especially amusing blurb about how to stragegize the seating of you and your inamorata to maximize your success for the first kiss.
But most of the advice, while conservatively minded, is as true today as it was in the 1930s (or the 1830s, for that matter). Offer your partner the occasional flattering comment. Be understanding. Avoid giving in to jealousy, and guard against causing it. Keep yourself clean, fit, and attractive for your partner. Don't lie to them.
Overall, this pamphlet reads like the advice one might receive from a cigar-chomping uncle; a bit coarse, a bit conservative, perhaps just a tad bawdy, but at core well-intentioned and wise. (less)
I especially liked the bit about how they got the elephants across the Rhone. One soldier basically taunted the most aggressive elephant until it gave...moreI especially liked the bit about how they got the elephants across the Rhone. One soldier basically taunted the most aggressive elephant until it gave chase, then he jumped in the water and swam like hell. The monstrous elephant gave chase across the river, and the rest of the herd followed this bellwether. Chased across a river by a gang of murderous elephants. Now that's a Facebook status update!(less)
A collection of interviews with Gorey from the early 70s up to the late 90s. Probably the best way to get a sense of the man behind the uncanny little...moreA collection of interviews with Gorey from the early 70s up to the late 90s. Probably the best way to get a sense of the man behind the uncanny little books. As he's uncomfortable attempting a summary of his life, these little snapshots of him discussing his current obsessions give a sense of the sweep of his career. It's also possible to sense the limits of the constructed personality ("half a put-on," he repeatedly admits) and see the real Gorey peeking out, by seeing which stock answers he uses repeatedly over the decades, versus the questions which always make him fumble. Plus I got about a dozen good movie recommendations! He's a wonderfully eccentric figure, and reading this book over a couple of days really gives the sense of having this inimitable figure coming to visit you for and unforgettable weekend.(less)
A unprepossessing but magical little book - like finding a dingy door in the basement that opens up into the immensity of China. The book is a collect...moreA unprepossessing but magical little book - like finding a dingy door in the basement that opens up into the immensity of China. The book is a collection of interviews with a remarkably diverse group of Chinese people: from an ex-prostitute to the brother of the ex-emperor, Pu Yi. There are around 50 interviews in all, but some voices stand out for their authenticity and vibrancy. There's the gruff woodsman who hunts tigers for zoos using his bare hands, the bumptious parvenu couple boasting about their wealth and bickering as they devour an enormous meal, the travails of a woman who went blind as a young child and eventually found work as a masseuse, the wisecracking mortician, the beautiful, diffident club singer, and many more.
One common theme to all these stories is the pernicious effect of the Cultural Revolution. Some of these people suffered, some inflicted suffering, a few escaped unscathed. but for all it was a defining, transformative event in their lives.
One stylistic choice of the work deserves note: the voice of the interviewer has been removed - all we hear are the voices of the people telling their stories. But we do hear their reactions to the questions of their absent interlocutor. The effect, interestingly enough, is that the reader is injected into the narrative: there is a sense of interaction that comes from hearing only one side of a conversation and filling in the other side yourself. And the intimacy and matter-of-factness of the interviews evokes memories of the conversations one has as a traveller. In a curious way you take the place of the interviewer and feel as though these conversations are directed at you.
In the course of all these conversations, you develop a very warm understanding of the Chinese people and the world they struggle in. In America, at least, we tend to vilify those communist holdouts, but in these stories, you do get to see the unexpectedly positive feelings the people have for their government. One story in particular stands out. A young girl is sold into prostitution by her dissolute parents in pre-revolutionary china, she succumbs to vice, becomes addicted to heroin, and seems destined to follow a doomed trajectory as old as civilization. Then came the revolution, and she was rounded up with all the other prostitutes to a reeducation camp. Like the rest, she rebels against the sanctimonious communists, imposing their absolute virtues on these world-weary women. But bit by bit she comes to realize she is caught up in something unprecedented in her experience: people who genuinely care for her and want to lead her to redemption. She finds it in herself to accept their offer and her life is transformed. Her love for the party is palpable, and heartwarming. And for a moment, at least, you can believe that its really within our power to make the world a happier, more just, more hopeful place to live and die in. (less)
Entertaining read for Birbiglia fans (like myself); this is largely a re-telling of the vignettes from his stand-up performances. The only disappointm...moreEntertaining read for Birbiglia fans (like myself); this is largely a re-telling of the vignettes from his stand-up performances. The only disappointment was that I had already heard most of it (though even the second time around it brought a smile to my face). The section on Mitch Hedberg was new to me though, and actually quite touching.
If you've never heard his stand-up before though, you might want to hold off on the book until you've got some familiarity with his style. A great deal of the humor comes from Birbiglia's well-honed intonation, and this, sadly doesn't come across with just the written word. So go watch some youtube clips first, and come back to the book.(less)