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Clif Cleaveland, MD
14 February 2008
Readers responded to my December invitation for nominees for
humorous books with a rich array. Imagine libraries of humor in
schools, businesses, and offices of government. Think of the
results if we turned to humor at moments of frustration or
disappointment. Unlike tranquillizers and anti-depressant
medication, reading has no allergic or toxic side-effects.
Melissa Atkinson nominates the books of Bill Bryson, especially
The Thunderbolt Kid, which deals with the author's
experiences in the 1960s.
Steve Bartlett points out the advantages of used bookstores in
locating older books which he deems more humorous. He recommends
The Thurber Carnival, especially its stories, "The Night
the Bed Fell" and "The Day the Dam Broke." His favorite author for
laugh-out-loud humor is Jean Shepherd. He highlights In God We
Trust, All Others Pay Cash and Wanda Hickey's Night of
Bill Casteel seconds the nomination of James Thurber and adds
the works of H. Allen Smith. Bill has discovered a great reservoir
of humor in box-sets of Seinfeld CDs. Bill reports checking his
blood pressure before and after watching an episode and reports
amazing drops. He offers the thought: "remember: you don't stop
laughing because you grow old; you grow old because you stop
Kitty Forbes proposes books by a quintet of writers: Charles
Portis's Norwood, Elise Sanguinetti's The Last of the
Whitfields, James Wilcox's Modern Baptists and
Sort of Rich, Woody Allen's Without Feathers, and
Patrick Dennis's Auntie Mame.
For Alison Hoffman, My Fine Feathered Friend by William
Grimes tops her laugh list. Although not a humorous book, she
commends Sarah Gruen's Water for Elephants.
Grant Law recalls the pleasure found in the books by Lewis
Grizzard, who was also a wonderful stand-up comedian. Grant
guarantees laughs if you read Elvis Is Dead and I Don't Feel So
Good Myself and They Yanked My Heart Out and Stomped That
Jack McEwan pointed me to The Humor of Christ by Elton
Trueblood. I located this out-of-print book on-line and share
Jack's regard for its fresh assessment of Christ's use of satire,
irony, and humor in His teachings.
Elizabeth Martin highlights the series by Effie Leland Wilder
about "everybody's favorite busybody, Hattie McNair and her fellow
residents at the Fair Acres Retirement Home." Titles include
Out to Pasture (But Not Over the Hill), Over What
Hill? (Notes From the Pasture), Older but Wilder, and
One More Time.
Mark Reneau commends The Portable Dorothy Parker,
especially for its sampling of book and theater reviews which Ms.
Parker wrote for Vanity Fair and The New Yorker. He admires the
four books of Woody Allen and their aphorisms such as, "The lamb
and the lion shall lie down together, but the lamb won't get much
sleep." Further recommendations include A Subtreasury of
American Humor, edited by E.B. and Katherine S. White and its
updating, Laughing Matters by Gene Shalit, Garrison
Keillor's joke shows on CD (Pretty Good Jokes and More
Pretty Good Jokes) and the CDs of Prairie Home Companion, The
New Yorker Book of Cartoons, and "anything by David
Sedaris, especially the CD of his Carnegie Hall show; his
experience with the "Stadium Pal" is the best thing on it and it
will leave you in tears."
Libby Workman seconds the vote for Dorothy Parker and reminds us
of the great humor in the writings of Molly Ivins. Shady
Grove by Janice Holt Giles is a favorite of her family. As a
sequel to reading Confederacy of Dunces, Libby and her
daughter visited the landmarks cited in the novels "as if they were
shrines." Libby points to the pleasure to be found in comic strips,
especially weekly renditions of Opus.
Frank White highlights the novels of Canadian Robertson Davies,
particularly The Papers of Samuel Marchbanks. Frank has
used www.bookfinder.com to
locate out-of-print books. "We should all read Dickens's American
Notes and Martin Chuzzelwit just to give us perspective on our
American character and insight into our current political
polarizations. It might help us to get over ourselves." Frank
further recommends Hunter Thompson, Hollis Gillespie, Dave Barry,
P.G. Wodehouse, Bailey White, and Oscar Wilde, along with H.L.
Mencken (A Menchen Chrestomathy), Bernard Shaw, and Bill
Bryson. On a more classical note he reminds us of the humor to be
found in Rudyard Kipling, Shakespeare, and the librettos of Gilbert
Correspondents cited the role of humor as they confronted
complex, administrative situations or dealt with personal loss and
business setback. We cried upon delivery into this world. Not long
afterwards, we grinned and later laughed. Sustaining the ability to
laugh can grant us relief, perspective, and patience as we deal
with the daily surprises of our lives.
I invite your nominations of movies, radio and television
programs, and DVDs that have made you laugh. Send me your nominees
for inclusion in a future column.
Contact Clif Cleaveland at firstname.lastname@example.org.