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"This gleefully witty treatise, a playful exploration of irony by someone who has mastered it himself, opens with definitions of irony and explanations of its many forms. Winokur (The Portable Curmudgeon ) then progresses through the "Annals of Irony," dating from 423 B.C.E. to the present, and he bolsters his chapters with generous helpings of quotes from public personages notable for their senses of irony. While he explores the historical aspects of irony, he also cites examples from current masters of the form, e.g., comedians Ali G and Sarah Silverman. Readers who do not appreciate cultural phenomena like Seinfeld or Curb Your Enthusiasm may not care to digest the text fully, but those who enjoy The Onion or The Simpsons should find much entertaining here." --Library Journal
About the Author
JON WINOKUR is the author of a number of reference books and anthologies, including The Portable Curmudgeon, Ennui to Go and Encyclopedia Neurotica. He lives in Pacific Palisades, California.
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Hardcover: 192 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Press; First Edition edition (February 6, 2007)
Jon Winokur is the author of two dozen nonfiction books, including The Portable Curmudgeon (NAL, 1987) and its four sequels; Zen to Go (NAL, 1988 and Sasquatch, 2005); Advice to Writers (Pantheon, 1999); The Big Book of Irony (St. Martin's, 2007) and the critically acclaimed New York Times National Bestseller The Garner Files: A Memoir, co-authored with James Garner (Simon & Schuster, 2011). Winokur maintains the popular AdviceToWriters.com and @AdviceToWriters Twitter feed. He lives in Los Angeles.
So what could I think at first, another quick-shot slick job to make money, this guy already wrote 19 books, titles like "Encyclopedia Neurotica," "Je Ne Sais What?," "The Portable Curmudgeon," "Zen to Go"... what could I assume but another Treatment Lite (and Cute) of the topic.
But was I wrong, as I sometimes am (which was not irony, or was it...) Quickly I saw a solid job here, complete and conceptualized plus specific and compact too. (And all in 162 pages of 5 X 8 format.) Heck, author Winocur even uses all the dry boring academic techniques to elucidate the subject (which I should know, being a former teacher, myself).
He uses Classify and Divide (subtypes of irony--situational, cosmic, tragic--even faux or pseudo, more than even I had thought of, is that ironical?). Orwellian, postmodern, understatement, verbal but also visual irony.... He uses Compare/Contrast (irony is not coincidence, thank you, misconception clarified at last!--nor is it hypocrisy, sarcasm, bushwa...).... Then heck, he also employs Time or Historical Perspective: irony from Aristophanes right up to the present.... Then too, he invokes Spatial Locations of irony: Canada, Mad and New Yorker magazines, Seinfeld, Simpsons, Yiddishkeit.... Oh, and he even supplies Scholarly References: he sights--oops, cites--some classics even I had never heard of, for future reference. Of course "we all know" of Wayne Booth's and Linda Hutcheon's works (at least I do, after learning of them earlier), but hail to D. C. Muecke's 1970 Irony, let alone an anthropological investigation Irony in Action.... Then Winocur supplies Exemplification: rich tiny nuggets of like "words that can only be ironic," even ironic punctuation, names, gestures, attire.Read more ›
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Jon Winokur's "The Big Book of Irony" is one of those books that is just exploding with tidbits that make you want to interrupt your reading and share what you've just read with a friend, a neighbor, or well, anybody.
Ostensibly the book is about Irony - what is is, what it is not, how to recognize it, and how to use it properly. But the problem with irony is that it is the statement of one thing while being understood to mean the opposite, that opposite meaning being the intent all along. Thus, the title of this book implies it is a "big" book when, in fact, it is quite small, which was the intent in calling it, ironically, a big book. One easily ends up in verbal or visual loops and stands a good chance of mistaking coincidence for irony or irony for sarcasm.
One of my favorite quotes in the book is from Bronislaw Malinowski:
"I once talked to an old cannibal who, hearing of the Great War raging in Europe, was most curious to know how we Europeans managed to each such huge quantities of human flesh. When I told him the Europeans did not eat their slain foes, he looked at me with shocked horror and asked what sort of barbarians we were, to kill without any real object."
The book includes examples of visual irony such as flame decals on a mini-van or Michael Jackson's multiply-defaced face.
It has a section of ironic events reported in the media such as the executive at the Salt Lake Tribune in charge of implementing cost-cutting measures who was himself fired, reportedly as a "cost cutting measure."
It even includes a self-test to help you measure your own irony potential but it, of course, is also ironic in that both the highest and lowest scores indicate the same thing.
Definitely a fun book to have on your bookshelf or to give to an English major.
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It is pretty vacuous and doesn't contain much more than you would find by searching around wikipedia. It is filled with anecdotes and quotes and feels like very light reading. If you actually want to work to understand irony as a concept then this book will only scrape the surface and give you some lines to throw around at a party. Not rigorous or well worked.
If you want something quick and easy then I guess this will do.
I felt like it was a waste of money and time.
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