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Posts Tagged ‘Humour’

When I made my New Year reading resolutions for 2010, one of the items I put on the list was ‘Read a book of essays’ and another item was ‘Read a book of humour’. My blog-friend and fellow book-blogger Kelly, after seeing my list recommended that I can try reading David Sedaris, because it would fit both the descriptions – essays and humour (Thanks Kelly :)). I hadn’t heard of Sedaris before, and so was looking forward to exploring a new author. So during my recent book-buying-binge (which seems to keep continuing in waves – I don’t know when it is going to get over and when I am going to read more than I buy), I got Sedaris’ ‘Me Talk Pretty One Day’. I finished reading it yesterday. Here is the review.
 
Summary of the book
 
The description of the book given in the back cover is quite brief with a quote from the book. But, anyway, I am giving here.
Welcome to the wonderful world of America’s foremost humorist David Sedaris, where learning French, like life, is littered with idiosyncratic delights…
  
‘The Italian was attempting to answer the teacher’s latest question when the Moroccan student interrupted, shouting, “Excuse me, but what’s an Easter?” The teacher called upon the rest of us to explain. “It is a party for the little boy of God who call his self Jesus. He die one day and then he go above of my head to live with your father. He weared of himself the long hair and after he die, the first day he come back here for to say hello to the peoples. He nice, the Jesus.”‘
 
As you can imagine, I couldn’t stop laughing when I read this!
 
What I think
 
‘Me Talk Pretty One Day’ is classified an autobiography, but it is more a collection of essays, written by Sedaris, on different topics, people and anecdotes which happened in his life. Each of the chapters which reads like an essay, is self-contained and stands independently. However, I read the book sequentially – because that is the way I always read books 🙂 The book is divided into two parts – the first part talks about Sedaris’ life when he was growing up. He gives interesting portraits of his family – his father, his mother, his sisters and brother and his teachers and about the dogs and cats in his home. He also talks about his early days of work, when he worked in different interesting jobs – as a theatre performer, as a creative writing teacher and as a worker in a packing and moving company. The second part of the book is mostly set in France, where Sedaris seems to have spent quite a number of years. In this part, Sedaris touches on his experience of learning French, about French culture in the countryside and on expat Americans and American tourists in France. Throughout the book Sedaris touches on his Greek heritage, his drug abuse and his homosexuality.
 
From a humour perspective, I liked the first part of the book more. The initial five chapters were hilarious and made me laugh aloud. One of my favourites was Sedaris’ humorous and heart-warming potrait of his younger brother. Later, somehow the humour tapered down (or maybe I had got used to it by that time that it was no longer making me laugh) and things proceeded at a normal pace. When I started to despair and started to think that I was not going to laugh out loud anymore, the last chapter came in and it was hilarious and I ended up with a bellyache after laughing out for so long.
 
Though Sedaris touches frequently and briefly on his homosexuality, I would have loved to know his thoughts on what he thought about the topic during his years of growing up, in a country, where opinion was divided on this issue.
 
Excerpts
 
I am giving below some of my favourite passages from this book.
How many grains of sand are there in the world?
 
      I tried to creep by unnoticed, but he stopped me, claiming that I was just the fellow he’d been looking for. “Do you have any idea how many grains of sand there are in the world?” he asked. It was a question that had never occured to me. Unlike guessing the number of picked eggs in a jar or the amount of human brains it might take to equal the weight of a portable television set, this equation was bound to involve the hateful word googolplex, a term I’d heard him use once or twice before. It was an idea of a number and was, therefore, of no use whatsoever.
      I’d heard once in school that if a single bird were to transport all the sand, grain by grain, from the eastern seaboard to the west coast of Africa, it would take…I didn’t catch the number of years, preferring to concentrate on the single bird chosen to perform this thankless task. It hardly seemed fair, because, unlike a horse or a Seeing Eye dog, the whole glory of being a bird is that nobody would ever put you to work. Birds search for grubs and build their nests, but their leisure time is theirs to spend as they see fit. I pictured this bird looking down from the branches to say, “You want me to do what?” before flying off, laughing at the foolish story he now had to tell his friends. How many grains of sand are there in the world? A lot. Case closed.
 
You can’t kill the Rooster
 
(Comment : I am sorry if you feel that there are too many swear words in the below passage. If you ignore them and continue reading till the end, I am sure you will like this heart-warming portrayal of Sedaris’ brother)
 
      Our family remained free from outside influence until 1968, when my mother gave birth to my brother, Paul, a North Carolina native who has since grown to become both my father’s best ally and worst nightmare. Here was a child who, by the time he had reached the second grade, spoke much like the toothless fishermen casting their nets into Albemarle Sound. This is the grown man who now phones his father to say, “Motherfucker, I ain’t seen pussy in so long, I’d throw stones at it.”
      My brother’s voice, like my own, is high-pitched and girlish. Telephone solicitors ask to speak to our husbands or request that we put our mommies on the line. The Raleigh accent is soft and beautifully cadenced, but my brother’s is a more complex hybrid, informed by his professional relationships with marble-mouthed, deep-country work crews and his abiding love of hard-core rap music. He talks so fast that even his friends have a hard time understanding him. It’s like listening to a foreigner and deciphering only shit, motherfucker, bitch, and the single phrase You can’t kill the Rooster.
      It often seems that my brother and I were raised in two completely different households. He’s eleven years younger than I am, and by the time he reached high school, the rest of us had all left home. When I was young, we weren’t allowed to say “shut up,” but once the Rooster hit puberty it had become acceptable to shout, “Shut your motherfucking hole.” The drug laws had changed as well. “No smoking pot” became “no smoking pot in the house,” before it finally petered out to “please don’t smoke any more pot in the living room.”
      My brother politely ma’ams and sirs all strangers but refers to friends and family, his father included, as either “bitch” or “motherfucker.” Friends are appalled at the way he speaks to his only remaining parent. The two of them once visited my sister Amy and me in New York City, and we celebrated with a dinner party. When my father complained about his aching feet, the Rooster set down his two-liter bottle of Mountain Dew and removed a fistful of prime rib from his mouth, saying, “Bitch, you need to have them ugly-ass bunions shaved down is what you need to do. But you can’t do shit about it tonight, so lighten up, motherfucker.”
      All eyes went up to my father, who chuckled, saying only, “Well, I guess you have a point.”
      A stranger might reasonably interpret my brother’s language as a lack of respect and view my father’s response as a form of shameful surrender. This, though, would be missing the subtle beauty of their relationship.
      …The two of them are unapologetically blunt. It’s a quality my father admires so much, he’s able to ignore the foul language completely. “That Paul,” he says, “now there’s a guy who knows how to communicate.”
 
      After all these years our father has never understood that we, his children, tend to gravitate toward the very people he’s spent his life warning us about. Most of us have left town, but my brother remains in Raleigh. He was there when our mother died and still, years later, continues to help our father grieve : “The past is gone, hoss. What you need now is some motherfucking pussy.” While my sisters and I offer our sympathy long-distance, Paul is the one who arrives at our father’s hosue on Thanksgiving day, offering to prepare traditional Greek dishes to the best of his ability. It is a fact that he once made a tray of spanakopita using Pam rather than melted butter. Still, though, at least he tries.
      When a hurricane damaged my father’s house, my brother rushed over with a gas grill, three coolers full of beer, and an enormous Fuck-It Bucket – a plastic pail filled with jawbreakers and bit-size candy bars. (“When shit brings you down, just say ‘fuck it,’ and eat yourself some motherfucking candy.”) There was no electricity for close to a week. The yard was practically cleared of trees, and rain fell through the dozens of holes punched into the roof. It was a difficult time, but the two of them stuck it out, my brother placing his small, scarred hand on my father’s shoulder to say, “Bitch, I’m here to tell you that it’s going to be all right. We’ll get through this shit, motherfucker, just you wait.”
 
Christmas Dinner
 
      We used to return home for Christmas every year, my brother, sisters, and I making it a point to call ahead, offering to bring whatever was needed for the traditional holiday meal.
      “No, I already got the lamb,” our father would say. “Grape leaves, phyllo dough, potatoes – I got everything on the list.”
      “Yes, but when did you get those things?”
      An honest man except when it comes to food, our father would lie, claiming to have just returned from the pricey new Fresh Market.
      “Did you get the beans?” we’d ask.
      “Well, sure I did.”
      “Let us hear you snap one.”
      Come Christmas Day, we would fly home to find a leg of lamb thawing beneath six inches of frost, the purchase date revealing that had been bought midway through the Carter administration. Age had already mashed the potatoes, the grape leaves bore fur, and it was clear that, when spoken to earlier on the phone, our father had snapped his fingers in imitation of a healthy green bean.
      “Why the long faces?” he’d ask. “It’s Christmas Day. Cheer up, for Christ’s sake.”
      Tired of rancid oleo and “perfectly good” milk resembling blue-cheese dressing, my family began taking turns hosting Christmas dinner.
 
Final Thoughts
 
I enjoyed reading ‘Me Talk Pretty One Day’. Though I found the humour going up and down in different chapters, when David Sedaris was on full song, the humour made me laugh aloud. (I still can’t stop laughing at the comment on the leg of lamb having been bought midway through the Carter administration :)) You can find another review of this book by fellow blogger Steve Betz here. I am hoping to try Sedaris’ ‘Holidays on Ice’ sometime. If you haven’t read Sedaris and would like to try a new humour writer, you can give this book a try.

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I discovered ‘The Wit of Cricket’ last month, when I went to the bookshop to get another book that I had ordered. I picked this and a few more and suddenly my resolution of not buying any book during that month, evaporated into thin smoke. But this was a book that I couldn’t resist, because though I have read many cricket anecdotes forwarded to me by friends by email and also have read anecdotes in different books, I haven’t read any books which had many of the anecdotes compiled in one place. So when I saw this book, I got quite excited and got it. I started reading it during the read-a-thon and finished it a few days later. Here are the review (short) and the excerpts (long) 🙂
 
What I think
 
The book is a collection of humorous anecdotes told by various interesting characters, some of whom have played cricket, and others who were cricket commentators. It has many of the famous anecdotes and many less known ones. It is anglo-centric with some Australian flavour – humour from other countries like India, South Africa, West Indies and others is nearly absent. Inspite of this limitation, this book is excellent. It makes one laugh. Many of the anecdotes are very funny and I nearly got a bellyache laughing 🙂 Many of the anecdotes are not politically correct, which adds to the humour. If you are a cricket fan, you will love this book.
 
Excerpts
 
It was a difficult choice for me to select a few anecdotes to give here, because I had many favourites. However I have tried giving a few below, to give you a flavour of the book. I have also posted a couple of anecdotes from this book on my blog here. I have given the anecdotes under two categories – legendary ones and the no-so-famous ones. Though I have categorized them thus, both of them are equally enjoyable reads. I also hope that the anecdotes which are not politically correct don’t annoy you.
 
Even if you are not a cricket fan, I hope that these anecdotes make you laugh and brighten up your day. (more…)

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