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Funny (Wisconsin Poetry Series) Paperback – October 31, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Hecht's sophomore effort is one of the most entertaining, and most original, books of the year. Its conceit, barring a few introductory sonnets, is to riff on jokes-become-aphorisms, dismantling assumptions as quickly as she dishes punch lines. "What did the sadist do to the masochist?/ Nothing" generates a brisk, hyperintelligent lyric about the ideas of need and mastery, studded by frequent half-rhymes and internal rhymes. "How many gorillas does it take/ to screw in a lightbulb?" prompts three pages of subtle, wise meditation on human evolution and human error. "Are You Not Glad?" turns a knock-knock joke into smart couplets about regret and love: "Orange you glad? No, I'm not. I ate the berries./ I was hungry. I was young." Switching deftly between the caricatured protagonists of the jokes themselves and more nuanced memories from real lives, Hecht sees how many jokes depend on familiarity and surprise, and how many highlight the disappointments ordinary experience can provide: "One way or another we all become/ the other." The New York–based Hecht (The Next Ancient World), who also writes books of popular philosophy (Doubt: A History), appends a neat 11-page prose essay about the relations between jokes and poems: even without the essay, this book brings the two forms tantalizingly close. (Dec.)
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"Guy calls the doctor, says the wife's contractions are five minutes apart Doctor says, Is this her first child? guy says, No, it's her husband. I promise to remember who I am." - excerpt from "Love Explained"

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Product Details

  • Series: Wisconsin Poetry Series (Book 12)
  • Paperback: 100 pages
  • Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press; 1 edition (October 31, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0299214044
  • ISBN-13: 978-0299214043
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #334,247 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jennifer Michael Hecht lives in Brooklyn, blocks from where her great-grandmother Jenny Balinsky lived. Hecht has written four books of history and philosophy and three books of poetry. She earned her Ph.D. from Columbia University in the History of Science and European Cultural History and has taken that in many directions.

I like to think about human meaning, especially the kind that exists outside the individual, in the culture and the community. The feeling of meaning is sufficient to the definition of meaning, just as the feeling of love is sufficient to the definition of love. (Of course we sometimes don't feel love, but that doesn't make us say love doesn't exist.) I believe Stay's approach to the question of suicide allows us to see ourselves as more profoundly connected to each other, and able to relax our need to each generate the entire meaning of life on our own.

For me, poetry is the best way to get to truth underneath what we think we know. My nonfiction also requests a flip in perspective. I love to hear from people! Contact me on my website:

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Philip Lehar on December 12, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I came here looking for analytical ethical material, but got deflected to Funny by the third commenter.

"I purchased this as a get-well gift for a friend in another state thinking it would help cheer her up following surgery. She didn't seem too pleased with the humor when I spoke with her, but appreciated the thought. I happened to secure my own copy through our library system (which took weeks) and agree. This book is NOT funny. The poems are not at all what one would expect in a book titled 'FUNNY'".

I don't read poetry any more, but I thought I'd give funny a try. Turned out to be a fair $15.10. It's the negative comments that tell you something, but unfortunately, these will have to be positive.

She finds a common rock beside the lake and flings it in and watches the perfect oscillations spread. How many gorillas does it take to screw in a light bulb? She'll fling you the old punchline and fill you in about screwing things in to things in so far as it elucidates gorillaness. You meet Dian Fossey's gorilla for instance, contemplating the flaming sunset after a rain dark day. He sees "the bruised fruit sky", "the mango-papaya sky" - whatever he has evolved to recognize in the shadows of the forest.

"The terrible graying gorilla is seriously trying to figure it out now". Not that she says so, but I imagine the silverbacks in her analytical ethical department projecting their uncouth selves upon the cosmos, but at least they are looking, and their analytical methods may come in handy for something. "This is how things get done".

The cover blurb says "tender and humane, and somehow ruthless". Fair advertising.

Philip Lehar
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By D. Henning on June 25, 2006
Format: Paperback
Buy this bbok. Jennifer Michael Hecht is a remarkable poet. Wise, clever and funny.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kyndra Georgeson on February 28, 2014
Format: Paperback
this is a great book- funny, satire and not at all the typical poetry book! we loved it at our home
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book was in perfect condition. I was very pleased. It was really much better than the description in the advertisement.
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