Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “comedy”

meilufay’s #CBR4 review #95 The Convenient Marriage by Georgette Heyer

If I were to write a top five list of my all-time favorite Georgette Heyer novels, this one would definitely qualify.  Set in the 18th century, this romantic comedy has one of Georgette Heyer’s most captivating heroines – the stammering, diminutive Horry.  The Convenient Marriage is one of the first Heyer novels to be enlivened a pack of dimwitted and silly young society men (think Wooster in PG Wodehouse’s books) whose antics add a dimension of hilarity to the storyline.  This bright, light, witty romantic comedy is an absolute delight to read.

Robert’s #CBR4 Review #14: This Book is Full of Spiders by David Wong

For all the enjoyment I got out of John Dies at the End, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it didn’t work as a novel. There were three very different episodes held together by a reporter framing device and the presence of a mysterious drug with inter-dimensional properties. It was funny, but the novel killed its momentum each time the story shifted to something completely different.

This Book is Full of Spiders by David WongI am happy to report that This Book is Full of Spiders, David Wong’s sequel to John Dies at the End, is unquestionably a novel. The clear three act structure exists, but it actually serves the telling of a single story. It’s funny, disturbing, and clever without any cohesion problems.

David and John have gone on many adventures in [Undisclosed] since their first run in with Soy Sauce. Surprisingly, it was calm, rational David that wound up in a courtroom after shooting a pizza delivery boy in the chest with a crossbow. Now he has to attend sessions with a court appointed psychiatrist who knows how to push his buttons. Read more…

xoxoxoe’s #CBR4 Review #34: Skios, by Michael Frayn

Skios, the new book from Michael Frayn (Noises Off, Spies, The Tin Men) is a fast-moving comic farce set on a private Grecian island, the eponymous Skios. Frayn pokes fun at pseudo-intellectuals and con artists and ambition as he charts the disintegration of the annual lecture at the Fred Toppler Foundation, an institute with a vague humanitarian purpose that may really exist as a front for shadier activities.

Michael Frayn

We are introduced to Dr. Norman Wilfred, the paunchy yet distinguished professor of “scientometrics” who is supposed to deliver the annual Fred Toppler Lecture; Nikki Hook, the ambitious top assistant at the Foundation, who has invited Wilfred to Skios; and Oliver Fox, a charming trickster, who decides on the spur of the moment after a glance at Nikki’s blue eyes, to become the name on the sign that she holds up at the airport, “Dr. Norman Wilfred.” Oliver is aided in his deception by a series of mistaken identifications, some similar-looking suitcases, and the very human quality of making assumptions, which he has no desire to correct. He also likes living on the edge, in constant risk of discovery.

“He had made himself Dr. Wilfred by his own individual act of will. He remained Dr. Wilfred by the will of others.”

Frayn hints at the less-than-intellectual aspirations of the various people who have come from all over the world via yacht, jet, or other means to attend the lecture, but the prose and action moves so quickly that the reader is never quite sure about the secondary cast. This is all fine for the first two-thirds of the novel, where the antics of the two Wilfreds is the heart of the story, but by the end, when things are happening so fast and so furiously, it becomes clear that fleshing out some of the other cast might have made Skios an even better read.

Cast is a very appropriate word to use, rather than character, in the case of Skios. Most of the people populating the novel are described by just a few physical attributes. Nikki is discreetly blonde and cool, Wilfred is slightly balding with a tendency to take himself too seriously, and Oliver has a dishmop of blonde hair that he is continuously brushing back from his soft brown eyes. The cinematic prose practically demands that the reader mentally cast a movie based on the book. Although British in Skios, it’s hard not to picture American actor Owen Wilson as Oliver. It’s unclear if this is Frayn’s intention, or just a result of his blending theater, film, and the written word for so many years.

Skios hurtles along to its Fawlty Towers-like conclusion at a breakneck pace. It is a fun summer read, but may leave one wishing for more than just a few good jokes and great pacing.

You can read more of my pop culture reviews on my blog, xoxoxo e

Article first published as Book Review: Skios by Michael Frayn on Blogcritics.

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xoxoxoe’s #CBR4 Review #30 & 31: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes & But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes, by Anita Loos

Anita Loos’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was a sensation when it was first published, in serial form, in Harper’s Bazaar in the early 1920s. Heroine and flapper Lorelei Lee narrates her own escapades and those of her best pal Dorothy Shaw. The two gals are besieged by suitors on both sides of the Atlantic. Although Lorelei is always out to get a nice piece of jewelry or some other gift from an admiring genteman, it’s hard to label her a gold digger. She and Dorothy are not exactly husband hunting — they are more often the quarry.

Once Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was published in book form in 1925, it soon became a best-seller, and Loos was asked to write a sequel, But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes, which was published in 1928. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes also spawned a successful Broadway musical and two film versions, one made in 1928, which has been lost, and the classic Marilyn Monroe/Jane Russell female buddy movie from 1953. Loos was first inspired to create the character of Lorelei after watching writer H.L. Mencken, a friend and writer that she greatly admired let a girl, a blonde, that she considered a bubblehead wrap him completely around her finger. Mencken not only didn’t mind being teased in print, but he helped her get it published.

I read an edition that included both novels, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes: The Illuminating Diary of a Professional Lady and But Gentlemen Marry BrunettesThe original Harper’s illustrations, included in this double-edition by Ralph Barton really capture the era of flappers and speakeasies. Readers familiar with the technicolor film directed by Howard Hawks will be interested to see what survived from Loos’s original characterization of Lorelei to Monroe’s version.

“So I really think that American gentlemen are the best after all, because kissing your hand may make you feel very very good but a diamond and safire bracelet lasts forever.”

Both books are written as entries from Lorelei’s diary. Little Rock’s most famous fictional debutante has decided to become a writer, and Lorelei never lacks for anything to say about herself and her endless quest for “education,” or the merits and faults of those around her. Comic misspellings are peppered throughout both books: “Eyefull Tower,” “safire,” “Dr. Froyd,” “negligay,” etc. Lorelei always has her eye on the prize — and the next prize, and the next prize. She constantly complains about her best pal Dorothy’s behavior, but Dorothy seems to do quite well for herself.

“I mean I always encouradge Dorothy to talk quite a lot when we are talking to unrefined people like Lady Francis Beekman, because Dorothy speaks their own languadge to unrefined people better than a refined girl like I.”

“Safires” and “encouradgements” aside, Lorelei has no problem spelling words like “diamonds” or “champagne.” Lorelei and Dorothy’s antics are always amusing to read about. There is a bit of suspense involved in which suitor Lorelei will finally say “yes” to and mean it this time. No matter how much they might depend on a gentleman to take them to lunch at the Ritz, or take them shopping for bracelets and “negligays,” Lorelei and Dorothy always seem in charge of their own destinies. And they seem to be having a great deal of fun, too. From the introduction by Regina Barreca:

“Loos’s Lorelei and Dorothy didn’t fall into vice; they jumped. The leap was a fortunate one. Lorelei manages her affairs, financial and sexual, with great success. She’s a broker for her own goods. Her heroicism relies on her intelligence even more than on her blondeness, and on her willingness to understand the pleasures and penalties of the choices she makes.”

As funny as Lorelei and her narrative are, Dorothy invariably gets the best lines, as she sizes up another “gentleman” while the girls are traveling in Paris:

“… so Dorothy spoke up and said, ‘I hear that they number all of you Louies over here in Paris.’ Because a girl is always hearing someone talk about Louie the sixteenth who seemed to be in the anteek furniture business. I mean I was surprised to hear Dorothy get so historical so she may really be getting educated in spite of everything. But Dorothy told Louie he need not try to figure out his number because she got it the minute she looked at him.”

No matter how many fiancés or adventures they have, the girls’ most important relationship is with each other, as Lorelei proves in But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes, when she takes up writing again, but this time to tell Dorothy’s story, which is quite a humdinger. Dorothy grew up in a carnival, and we follow her from the carny life to the stage, the Ziegfeld Follies, and beyond.

Lorelei may be a little distracted by her new married state, and even motherhood,

“And I always think that the sooner a girl becomes a Mother after the ceremony, the more likely it is to look like ‘Daddy.'”

but she still is serious about writing. She even manages to get an invitation to join the Algonquin Circle. Of course Dorothy is not so impressed.”Well, Dorothy finally finished her chicken hash and spoke up and said that she had overheard enough intellectual conversation for one day, so she was going out to hunt up a friend of hers who only talks about himself when he has a toothache.”

Both books are humorous and quick reads. It would certainly help to be a little familiar with the 1920s, especially New York and Hollywood. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes aren’t dated, but they are definitely a humorous time capsule. Lorelei and Dorothy don’t let anyone hold them back. They are sassy and witty and completely unapologetic. They aren’t exactly role models, but they are strong women who get what they want out of life. And that is always appealing to a girl like I.

You can read more of my pop culture reviews on my blog, xoxoxo e

Robert’s #CBR4 Review #08: Johnny the Homicidal Maniac: Director’s Cut by Jhonen Vasquez

Of all the comic compendiums/graphic novels I own, Johnny the Homicidal Maniac: Director’s Cut by Jhonen Vasquez is easily the one I’ve read the most. I still have the first copy I picked up at a mall Hot Topic in middle school and it’s been through a lot. It’s been attacked by stupid dogs (they were mine and bright is not an appropriate descriptor), thrown in the trash by over zealous Catholic relatives, and defaced by a terrible roommate my first year in college. If none of that could stop me from reading it, what could?

Johnny the Homicidal Maniac

JTHM Director's Cut is a killer collection. Literally. It's in the title.

The answer seems to be nothing. Vasquez’s ultra-violent dark comedy comic series ran all of seven issues before ending with a literal hiatus for the series. Side stories came out–I Feel Sick followed Johnny’s ex-girlfriend and Squee followed Johnny’s traumatized little neighbor–but the original series has not expanded (beyond awful fan fiction, which obviously doesn’t count).

The concept is encapsulated in the title. A man named Johnny is a homicidal maniac. He kills people in horrible ways using an expansive subterranean torture chamber and some on the street ingenuity. Are you supposed to root for the killer? Nope. The victims? Guess again. The survivors? Only one, and she gets her own issue to deconstruct everything that should stop you from reading the series at all.

The key to Johnny the Homicidal Maniac is realizing that it’s an exploration of character, society, pop culture, and storytelling. Read more…

CommanderStrikeher’s #CBR 4 Review #15: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (and other concerns) by Mindy Kaling

This book has been frequently reviewed for the CBR, and I can see why.  It is a quick read, perfect for a doctor’s office wait or a plane ride.  It was delightful and hilarious.  Mindy Kaling is probably best known for hysterically brilliant performance as Kelly Kapoor on NBC’s “The Office”.  This book is about everything, from her childhood of growing up Indian and chubby to her time on the hit play, “Matt and Ben”, to her time writing for “The Office”.  It is also about makeup, clothes, and boys.

Honestly, I read this one a month ago, and I had to return the book to the library before I wrote this review, so I don’t remember a lot of the specifics.  One of my favorite chapters was on how long it takes men to put on shoes.  It’s so true!  If you are looking for something to read while you are waiting in line, and you don’t mind if strangers think you are crazy because you are busting a gut laughing, then this book is for you.

4/5 Stars

CommanderStrikeher’s #CBR 4 Review #10: Fool by Christopher Moore

*Audiobook review
I loves me some Christopher Moore. His brand-new novel, Sacre Bleu is sitting on my bedside table waiting for me to dive right in. My first Moore novel was A Dirty Job, and I thought it was amazing. I’ve also read his vampire trilogy, and my review for Lamb was actually published on a couple of years ago. I’m also a Brit-Lit nerd, so a Christopher Moore novel spoofing Shakespeare was a must read for me. Fool was definitely one of my favorite novels.
Fool is the story of Pocket, the diminutive court jester of King Lear. The dude who disowned his youngest daughter just because she wouldn’t kiss his ass in front of his entire court. Yeah, THAT King Lear. Pocket is bawdy. Just randy. He’s screwing half of Lear’s court, a couple of the daughters, and before he came to Lear’s court, a couple of nuns. Then a ghost shows up and wackiness ensues. There are witches, war, and murder most foul.
There were a lot of little Shakespearean in-jokes peppered throughout the novel. I loved this book. I could listen to this all over again and love every second of it. I just love Moore’s novels, and Euan Morton was a terrific narrator. This made doing the dishes much more enjoyable.
5/5 Stars

BanannerPants’s #CBR4 Review #5: Betty White: If You Ask Me

     The full title is If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won’t). But Betty White is just being modest because people ask her things all the time.

This is basically a picture book. The page count comes in at 258, but the margins are wide and the lines spaced far apart, like a burn-out’s term paper. The book doesn’t offer anything new. If you’re not already a Betty White fan, there would be no reason to read this book–it’s not an autobiography or historical fiction or even a call to decency. However, if you are a Betty White fan, you already know everything she talks about. So really, it’s just a picture book.

     I should be more lenient considering she’s a 90-year-old woman trying to write a book that isn’t just full or sounds a drool stains. It’s a valiant effort and it is her 5th book, and it only covers the past 15 years. Really, it offers what it promises. It’s just a collection of short anecdotes.

     She loves the business she’s in, she doesn’t like walking the Red Carpet, she talks about Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds more than necessary, and she loves animals, even sexual-harassing gorillas. Also, she was in a movie with Jennifer Love Hewitt and played off-type. I suppose that may have been new information because nobody saw that movie. Also, she promotes the hell out of Hot In Cleveland. That, in a nut-shell, is Betty White: If You Ask Me (And of course you won’t).

     I’m being extra harsh because it’s really late (or really early) and that’s what I do when I’m not in my 7-minute window of kindness. Really, it’s sweet that she likes to write books and that she’s allowed to do it. I know there’s a decent amount of Betty White backlash out there. People are tired of her–they say enough is enough. But I’m glad she still gets work and that she’s still good at it. She wrote a little book to say she just likes it when people are nice to each other and to animals. (So maybe it is kind of a call to decency.) It takes about 2 hours to read, so it’s not really a waste of time. And again, there are pictures.

Quorren’s #CBR4 Review #17 Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris

Then We Came to the End details life in a Chicago ad agency at the end of the dot com bubble and how the cube rats who worked there survived.  The novel is a slice of life of the cube dweller in today’s businesses.  There’s really not much plot and the book jumps forwards and backwards in time.  The story is mostly told through office gossip, which explains the fractured continuity, but it’s also told in the first person plural voice – an interesting choice.  In the reader’s guide in the back Ferris explain he chose to use “we” to reflect corporate culture and the prevailing attitude that corporates are sentient entities, that us employees are the worker bees for the corporate queen in a hive-mind mind-meld.

Many parallels can be drawn between this book and The Office, both UK and US.  I personally feel that the US version was saccharined up when NBC realized that Americans don’t want to go home and watch their work on TV.  Then We Came to the End doesn’t throw in too much sweet, instead dealing with malicious office gossip and hurtful pranks.  Mischievous Jim and his monkeyshines with Dwight are a far cry from scrawling “Fag” on a coworker’s cube wall.

As a cube dweller myself, there is one subplot I thoroughly enjoyed.  The office manager has secretly put ID tags on all office furniture.  When people are laid off, those that are left naturally cannibalize what they left behind.  If anyone else works in a cube farm, or a large office, you know how musical chairs can start.  Boba Fett got laid off, so Princess Leia snags his chair because it has better cushioning, but Obi Wan offers a trade for his chair, which has lumbar support.  Soon no one is left with the chair they started it.  Anyways, this character begins to get paranoid that he’ll be fire over the chair.  Over moving a chair.  It’s not like he stole office property, it clearly stayed in the building.  He really didn’t commit a fireable offense.  But office environments like these really twist your perspective on what’s real and what’s petty bullshit.

The Fatling’s #CBR4 Review #8 Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? And Other Concerns by Mindy Kaling

I’ve read a few books by female comedians over the years, and Mindy Kaling’s is by far my favorite.  It’s breezy and fun, assertive without feeling hyperdefensive, and a fascinating look at Kaling’s path to becoming a writer for The Office.

Kaling also owns her femininity, which is refreshing, since many female comedy memoirists seem to classify it as a burden or annoyance.  There are the obligatory chapters chronicling Kaling’s obligatory struggle with body image, weight loss, and self-esteem, but she delves in deep rather than tossing them off with a sentence or two.


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