I’ve noticed that Dave Barry has been waning in recent years. Maybe it’s just me, or maybe that’s why he decided in 2005 that it was time to stop writing his regular column for the Miami Herald. Dave Barry Hits Below the Beltway was good. Dave Barry’s Money Secrets felt forced.
I shouldn’t even analyze it that much: Dave Barry is a self-deprecating humor writer. His jokes involves boogers and weasels. Still, his books, stretching back into the 80s, have always been a guilty pleasure of mine. Even his fiction novels are good (I have yet to read his books with Ridley Pearson).
Dave Barry’s History of the Millenium (So Far) is a short book comprised of his yearly “Year in Review” articles for the Miami Herald, which he has done since the year 2000 (except for 2001, when he didn’t write one). It goes month by month, highlighting all of the major (and silly) events that happened. The effect is cumulative, as Barry uses recurring jokes heavily (e.g., Iraq, the Palm Beach County election officials, etc.). I’m not sure it was intended this way, although the book ends up being a sort of chronology of the George W. Bush presidency, except with more booger jokes.
Barry, for those of you who don’t know, is a registered Libertarian, which essentially means he holds most of the government in contempt. He lambastes the Democrats pretty heavily for being unorganized, inept, and knee-jerk, and then rakes the Republicans over the rails for what’s been a non-stop decade of corruption, ineptitude, and Pat Robertson. If you’ve read him for a while, you’ll recognize some old jokes that he’s recycled for the purpose (hey, he’s been putting out books for 25 years; I’ll cut him some slack), but this book genuinely did make me laugh out loud. It’s kind of sophomoric, but it’s got a gloss of respectable satire.
What’s charming about Barry’s work is that even though he professes to talk about really awful news (e.g., next year can’t possibly be any worse than this year), he does so in a way that makes it seem as harmless as booger jokes. It is, in one way, a sort of depressing cynicism about government that particular to libertarians and even moreso to humorists; yet, it’s also somewhat soothing, because I feel that if I can still laugh about government, it hasn’t yet gotten too bad.