Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Where Is the Hilarity

Last night there were so many good ideas that Good Idea Club lasted until after one in the morning! Bill Boyle brought that book he bought at the library for a quarter, the one by a divorced ex-preacher who promises, on the cover, True Stories, Quips, Squeaky Clean Humor, Jokes, and Hilarity. It was a slimmer volume than I expected. We guessed 60 pages or so, but it was hard to tell because there were no page numbers! Each joke had its own title in bold print and caps, and I happened to open to one called CAT AUTOPSY - you may be sure I did not read it. But I failed to see how that grisly subject could be an example of squeaky clean humor or hilarity, and I know it wasn't a "true story" because - as I gleaned from a peek at the first sentence - the main character was TV's beloved coroner Quincy (pictured), which seemed weirdly specific and "topical" in a book of knee-slappers by a divorced ex-preacher, but who am I to say? McKay mentioned an NPR story she had heard that morning which made her think of me, something about a book the title of which she could not recall, but which she paraphrased as "HOW TO MAKE A MILLION DOLLARS BY TURNING YOUR CAT INTO A CELEBRITY." See, once I was working on a book called YOUR CAT CAN BE A MOVIE STAR! which was really a novel about a tortured soul in the guise of a how-to book. But McKay's report left me with the sinking feeling that there is really very little difference between an actual book about how to turn your cat into a movie star and a novel about a tortured soul in the format of an actual book about how to turn your cat into a movie star. It's like when Larry King tweets about corn muffins! No genius can create something more satisfying than that. Real life far outstrips our wry approximations of it. Later on the back porch Bill Boyle read us many squeaky clean quips and jokes in his quiet, measured, thoughtful voice. We got a big kick out of it! And mostly Bill kept a straight face. I guess at some point in the evening I said, "We're lucky, you know? We come in at the tail-end of a gross tradition," which I know I said because Jimmy tweeted it. Ran into Jimmy today and asked him what in the world I was talking about. Jimmy said I was talking about literature.