- Don't Vote: It Just Encourages the Bastards
- Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press
- Year: 2010
- Pages: 288
I can remember being quite young and looking for books by Dave Barry in my local library. Invariably, I happened upon large collections by such venerated humorists as Lewis Grizzard and P.J. O’Rourke, who even in the early 90s had a large œuvre. I never got into O’Rourke at the time, because I was concerned more with Barry’s slapstick and sometime scatological approach to humor, as opposed to O’Rourke’s which was more straightforward political satire.
When I learned sometime about a decade ago that Barry was a Libertarian, I wasn’t even quite sure what it meant (I was probably about 14), other than he apparently disliked government. This is no surprise, given that a large portion of his work was dedicated to criticizing people in authority, especially the government, which was a fair target for lampooning not just by Libertarian humorists, but just about anybody. Let’s face it: the government is a big dumb ox of a target, and even dyed-in-the-wool liberals have little trouble lambasting it for wasteful spending and making jokes about Congress being the opposite of Progress.
- Earth (The Book): A Visitor's Guide to the Human Race
- Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
- Year: 2010
- Pages: 256
Think back to the heady days of 2004-2005, when the entire country was embroiled in (pre- and post-) election politics, and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart had suddenly become an important political and cultural entity, due in no small part to Stewart’s very public flogging of Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala on Crossfire. Stewart and Colbert’s recent Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear drew just under a quarter-million attendees, so one can hardly say that the entity has diminished in the intervening years, but there was something particularly novel about Jon Stewart et al. at that point that made their leap from TV to print easy and popular. America (The Book) was a wild success, and so it should have been: it was a well-executed parody of a children’s American history textbook, pointedly satirical and wickedly funny.
Five years later, the same crew (more or less) gives us Earth (The Book), evidently a scaled-up version of the same concept, written as a communique to an alien race that stumbles onto our planet long after we’ve obliterated ourselves.
- Shades of Grey
- Publisher: Viking
- Year: 2009
- Pages: 400
Jasper Fforde has accomplish a lot in a relatively short period of time. His first novel, The Eyre Affair, was published in 2001, and in the 9 years since, he has published an additional seven novels, with announced plans for 4 more. I liked The Eyre Affair when I read it three years ago, and at the time I criticized it for being a bit short on plot and long on context. With the benefit of hindsight, I realize that Fforde writes series more than he writes books, and that the world-building in Book #1 always pays dividends later on.
I should have been smarter, then, in my initial disappointment with Shades of Grey—not with the plot, which was fascinating, but with the ending, which was frustrating in the extreme; it was only after I finished and fumed a bit did I do some research and find out that Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron is only the first in a planned trilogy. This makes me feel better, though I am now emotionally-invested enough in the characters to be required to (wait for and) read the forthcoming sequels.
My favorite new-year pastime, the Buffalo Beast‘s annual “Most Loathsome” list, is now up. It’s a little more brief (and tame) this year, but still a funny read.
- Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
- Publisher: Quirk Books
- Year: 2009
- Pages: 320
First, a preamble. If you’ve been hiding in a cave with your eyes closed and cotton in your ears, you might not be aware that zombies are in. Though at one point nothing more than one entry in a pantheon of ghouls (which also included mummies and vampires), they have quickly worked their way into popular culture. Nowhere is this more apparent than the internet, where they have become a meme along with such colorful characters as pirates, ninjas, pirates vs. ninjas, lolcats, raptors, &c..
Zombies in particular have proved fodder for both cursory reference and more substantial fare: be it books such as World War Z or Breathers, films such as 28 Days Later, or video games such as Resident Evil or Left4Dead, zombies have begun to infiltrate our niche media.