Created in Darkness by Troubled Americans: The Best of
McSweeney's, Humor Category
, a collection from the clever young writers that bring us the McSweeney's
literary journal and Web site, and co-edited by their leader, Dave Eggers
, is funny from the first page. And by "first page," we mean the table contents. Of course not every essay, list, and swatch of dialogue are created equal, but the collection has many tasty morsels that are well worth a read, a read to friends, and then a re-read, after a decent interval has elapsed.
Most appealing in the book's starting lineup is J.M. Tyree's "On the Implausibility of the Death Star's Trash Compactor." Humorous as well as thought-provoking, this essay makes the perfect amuse bouche for what is arguably the collection's main course of hilarity, "Fire: the Next Sharp Stick?", "Candle Party," and "Unused Audio Commentary by Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky, Recorded Summer 2002, for the Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring DVD (Platinum Series Extended Version), Part One," all to be found in the early middle. Though a familiarity with candle parties, Howard Zinn, sharp sticks, and other topics satirized in this book is helpful, it's not necessarily required for understanding the jokes. The biggest risk here is binge-reading, as you may exchange audible laughter for the feeling that you are being force-fed an ice cream sundae. If you pace yourself--say no more than four to six pieces at a time--you should have the energy for the final third, including the funny list marathon at the end. Or save a few portions for later when you are really starving for a good laugh. --Leah Weathersby
From Publishers Weekly
In his introduction, McSweeney's
founder Eggers says the goal of these short pieces, most of which originally appeared on the McSweeney's Web site, is to be "funny without being humorous," which is an open invitation for critical bashing. It's true that the short stories, essays and lists—oh, so many lists—tend not to have, or even try for, the sort of universal appeal that turns stand-up comedians into bestselling authors. Readers' reactions will depend on whether they share the same level of erudition and love for pop culture as the authors. Greg Purcell's spot-on impression of the deranged voice of Ezra Pound's later writings, for example, will work only for those who know Pound's work, while the "Journal of a New COBRA Recruit" will be equally incomprehensible to people who didn't grow up with GI Joe in the 1980s. If you get the jokes, though, they can be side-splittingly hilarious. Of course, there are misfires, especially those that play with the idea of trying and failing to be funny.
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