National Humor Month
April 17, 2014
April is National Humor month, so it’s the perfect time to share some of my favorite, funny reads.
Richard Russo’s Straight Man takes place at a small, liberal arts college in Pennsylvania, where the professors are all a little resentful that this stepping stone job has turned permanent. The academic politics are so hilarious precisely because the stakes are so small. William Henry Devereaux, Jr. (“I’m not a straight man, but I can play that role”) is the English Department chair and must contend with poets with injured feelings, threatened budget cuts, and the aftermath of a misguided appearance on the local news. Meanwhile, his own domestic problems and the shadow of his more accomplished father loom large.
Matt Prior, the main character in Jess Walter’s The Financial Lives of the Poets, is facing employment troubles of his own. Before the financial meltdown, he quit his journalist job to pursue the not-so-brilliant business plan to merge financial reporting with poetry. Soon, he’s out of his job, nearly out of his house, and his wife may or may not be conducting an affair via Facebook. A chance encounter with a bunch of stoners at a convenience store leads to his next big employment plan, which proves to be an even worse idea than his first. It’s a little bit of the TV show Weeds, a little bit Tom Perrotta, and a whole lot of fun.
In Kevin Wilson’s The Family Fang, Buster and Annie spend their childhood as unwilling participants in their parent’s performance art careers. The parents, Caleb and Camille, feel good art must create chaos and every public place a potential stage: the mall, an airplane flight, a high school performance of Romeo and Juliet. Buster and Annie have returned home after setbacks in their careers and personal lives, only to have their parents disappear without a trace. Did something happen to them or is this Caleb and Camille’s most elaborate performance piece yet? Kevin Wilson’s story collection, Tunneling to the Center of the Earth, also features quirky characters and absurdist humor, including a story of a rent-a-Grandma gone rogue.
What’s the last book that made you laugh?
Angie S., Readers' Advisor
Woodneath Library Center