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Ant Farm: And Other Desperate Situations Paperback – April 3, 2007

3.8 out of 5 stars 64 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A contributor to Mad, 22-year-old Rich is a Harvard senior, a former president of the Harvard Lampoon and the son of New York Times columnist Frank Rich. Half of the short humor pieces collected here previously appeared in the Harvard Lampoon, and Rich has taken his college collage and mixed it with new material for a satirical salmagundi that bites back. Since brevity is the soul of wit, the book has 57 varieties of playlets, essays and mirthful monologues, and most are only two pages long. Imaginative premises abound, such as X Files with dog characters. In the title piece, ants plot an escape: "We've been digging tunnels ever since we got here. We always end up hitting glass." Since a college-level audience is targeted, older readers might find some references puzzling. In his original proposal to Random House (a portion of which was printed in the New York Observer), he claimed that the "subject matter—horrible, inescapable doom—is well-suited for a younger audience.... I think kids will be attracted to the book's unpredictability. The tone remains constant throughout, but the topic changes every page with the abruptness of an iPod shuffle." True, these fragments are fun, and some are so abrupt they could have been iPhoned in. Others are as unpredictable as YouTube, as in your face as MySpace (which will both surely be used for online promotions). (Apr. 3)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

In this collection of comic vignettes, Rich, a Harvard senior and former president of the I^ Harvard Lampoon, displays a knack for extracting humor from scenarios of discomfort and despair. There's the son who unwittingly exposes his single mother's promiscuity, the nerd who becomes cool in the eyes of his Bulgarian pen pal, and the factory employee who goes a little nuts on the job. Performance anxiety among pandas, small talk gone wrong, the validity of "love coupons" when a relationship goes bad--all are covered here. Readers also learn about unlikely applications of math. (Who knew solving a trigonometry problem could mitigate a murderer's wrath?) And on the liabilities of being invisible, Rich writes: "When I was a lifeguard, I never got any credit for any of my heroic rescues. It was always 'angel this' and 'angel that.'" Some of the selections are more dark than droll (a boy's discovery of his father's alcohol cache, the text message of a teenager with hepatitis C), but all have the same good-natured goal: finding levity amid the gravity of everyday life. Allison Block
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Paperback: 156 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks (April 3, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400065887
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400065882
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #339,935 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A lot of hype, a little bit of book. Much of it I didn't even understand. Okay, I'm late 50's in age, so maybe that's why; I had a chuckle or two, but mostly shook my head in dismay. I think, post-50, or maybe just not movie and TV addicted, it's not entertaining.
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I had read the cover years ago and had added it to my want list...it's not really a remarkable or thought provoking book, although the synopsis had made me think otherwise. I will donate this book vs. keep it..
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Format: Paperback
That pretty much sums up this snarky, cynical and humorous collection of speculations and observations from Simon Rich. It's a collection that presents a more youthful, upbeat resignation echoing the more reposed one found in the writing of David Sedaris. Ant Farm is full of nostalgic recollections and weird possibilities concerning the irrelevancies of those desperate situations that give us awkward moments of reflection.

Moments that involve realizing the agony spent before receiving one's first calculator, the ironic closed-mindedness when experimenting with a ouija board, making candy with a forgetful someone named Peanut Al, keeping close tabs on your daily karma tally, God's overwhelming support for Orel Hershiser, and the three things you really don't need if stranded on a desert island.

Ant Farm is an incredibly fast and funny read. The selections are brief and varied, maybe a little too much so, as each consists no more than a couple of pages and is unbounded by coherent theme other than pure whimsy. But it does create that weird momentary pause, raising the question whether there is anything more absurd than us humans and our behavior.
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I was turned on to Simon Rich through an article I read of his online.... knew I needed to find more from him. While this is from a bit earlier in his writing career, the whit, humor, and quirky thinking are still there. Best of all, you easily find yourself relating to his short "stories" in a way that you realize he's simply put down on paper a lot of the thoughts that we had at various stages of our lives. Thoughts that seem ridiculous to us know, but at the time made absolute sense.

I would give this 5 stars, but the book tends to drift off a bit towards the end... The material at the beginning had tears rolling out of mine (and my family's) eyes as we laughed... the last half of the book is still very good, but just not quite at the same level.
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These stories are very very short which is good. If they were any longer they might well result in emotional damage to the reader. Mr. Rich's imagination takes us where few have gone before.

I mean what would you do if an angry murderer threatened you with death if you didn't come up with the correct answer to a trigonometry problem (sin2x=2cosinxsinx)? Have you ever thought how difficult it would be to wage war using Swiss army knives? Is it really true that God intervenes to help Orel Hershiser pitch his way to victory? Is it a fact that scientist Stephen Hawking is really a time traveler? Is it possible for ants to dig to freedom from a glass walled ant farm?

Do these story topics pique your interest? If so cough up 10 bucks and buy the book. If they leave you cold, well, hey spend the money on a six pack, and have fun that way.
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By Jay on August 1, 2007
Format: Paperback
I love Simon Rich's sense of humor. His imaginings of what a situation would be like (What a conversation between God and the man who stands with a cardboard sign informing the public the end is near, for example, or what his mother believes runs through his mind when he is home alone at age 15) are just brilliant. Not all the entries are great, but the gems make up for the others. I loved sharing this with my family and friends, and despite age, gender, and frankly taste difference, they all found something to love in ANT FARM. The book goes fast, but you can revisit it again and again. It is well worth buying.
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Format: Paperback
And I'm not just saying that as an Emmy-winning 40-yr-old comedy writer in Hollywood trying to suck up to a young guy who will be running this place in about six months (how do you do sir?)...Ant Farm is a delightful bruschetta of absurdity served on crackers of keen insight.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book is irreverent & LOL-funny. In the spirit of SNL, Rich throws EVERYTHING at the wall, and just like the sketches in the first half-hour of the show, about 85% of it sticks. I'll definitely order more of his books.
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