It's My Birthday, I'll Laugh If I Want To...
Humor Can Help Heal Wounds and Did for Me Over the Decades
Humor has been such a friend to me over the years. I simply could not have survived the crazy ups and downs of my life without my favorite humorists. So, on this my (not telling) birthday, I dedicate this blog post to my favorite funny book writers. The uniqueness and brilliance of these favorite authors is that they elicit side splitting laughter while delivering profound stories and life’s lessons – and at times, a picture of world places I may never have the time or money to visit.
The 1980’s: In this decade of divorce, family loss and joblessness, would these funny authors save me? No, but they made me laugh when I wasn’t crying.
1982 Russell Baker - Growing Up is a masterpiece of family and journalistic history. His mom’s a hoot too. An Amazon review by Harrison Salisbury says, “ This Pulitzer Prize-winner is "the saddest, funniest, most tragical yet comical picture of coming of age in the U.S.A. in the Depression years and World War II that has ever been written.”
1986 Erma Bombeck - When my kids were young, I had to hide in the bathroom to read Erma so I wouldn’t wake them choking with laughter, but also to be near the toilet in case I peed my pants. My favorite: At Wits End. Art Buchwald says of Erma’s humor, "See if you can read a paragraph without laughing out loud.” Erma was hot in the 80’s but she still is. Her down home humor entertained millions of families. “You'll laugh until it hurts and love it!” says one review.
The 1990’s: My children were growing up and beginning to leave home and I suffered empty nest syndrome, not to mention the no man was calling syndrome. Did these popular columnists keep me from leaping off a tall building? Not really. But I was too busy guffawing through much of the loss and loneliness. And it appears I was longing to travel?
1993 Dave Barry – Back in college, I read Dave’s earlier books in the closet so I wouldn’t disturb my roommates with my hysterical laughter. My favorite of his came in the '90’s: Dave Barry Does Japan which contained Dave’s usual hilarity but with a profound sense of the Japanese people and culture. "One of the funniest people ever to tap tap on a PC," says Philadelphia Inquirer.
1996 Art Buchwald - Art’s political satire is the best. But I most enjoyed his memoir, I’ll Always Have Paris. “Both irreverently funny and deeply touching, this golden memoir (a sequel to Leaving Home) gloriously recreates the adventurous, liberated spirit of expatriate Paris.” Publishers Weekly.
The 2000’s More empty nest syndrome: More single life trauma. Back to the workplace after 15 years. Needed a heavy dose of funny. Who ya gonna call? The funniest writers of the new millennium. It appears, at this stage, I again wished to travel or escape my present situations.
2004 J. Maarten Troost wrote two great travel memoirs of surviving South Sea habitats. Witty. The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific and Getting Stoned with Savages: A Trip Through the Islands of Fiji and Vanuatu. “With The Sex Lives of Cannibals, Maarten Troost has delivered one of the most original, rip-roaringly funny travelogues in years—,” says Amazon. I believe Getting Stoned is just as funny.
2004 Firoozeh Dumas's Funny in Farsi changed my outlook on Persians and other Middle Easterners. I met Firoozeh at a reading and was further changes by her commitment to present her countrymen in a new light. A customer review tells us, “A book with "funny" in its title already gives readers expectations of being funny--and rightly so, because it lives up to all of its expectations, and I laughed out loud at every page!”
2006 Bill Bryson I keep reading Bill’s, A Walk in the Woods, trying to figure out how he can be so funny. I want to be that funny! “As Bryson and Katz haul their out-of-shape, middle-aged butts over hill and dale, the reader is treated to both a very funny personal memoir and a delightful chronicle of the [Appalachian] Trail.” Publishers Weekly
2007 Having lived in the middle of Wisconsin in my growing up years, I related to The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid. To me, and to many others, it’s a masterpiece kick in the pants. “As one of the best and funniest writers alive, he is perfectly positioned to mine his memories of a totally all-American childhood for 24-carat memoir gold,” says an Amazon reviewer.
The 2010’s The current decade brought peace and security to my life. I got a real job and added to a weak retirement fund. I retired and got back to writing after years of being too busy. Saw my children established in great jobs and NYC real estate – enough to take care of their mother in her old age. Still no men in my life but who really cares? But humor is still part of my life – I'm storing up for the next big need.
2010 Nora Ephron’s humor spread across books, screenplays, and speeches. My all time favorite is her I Remember Nothing about getting older. And for a quick and fun moment on the Internet, watch her roast of Mike Nichols on the AFI Tribute to Mike Nichols. 2010 Christopher Buckley - I sometimes have to carry a dictionary to read Chris’s humor but I’m mad about his columns and essays none the less. “One of the funniest writers in the English language."―Tom Wolfe If you want to read a masterwork memoir, read Losing Mum and Pup: A Memoir. "Smartly written... an improbably funny book that will hit home hard... Read it and chortle. Read it and weep."―Janet Maslin, New York Times
2011 Calvin Trilling - Another writer I keep reading to see if the brilliance will rub off on me. Not so far. Calvin and I go way back but if I were to gather together all his best, I would pull out my Quite Enough of Calvin Trilling - Forty Years of Funny Stuff and remember all the days he made me laugh.
To wrap up, I ask, how about more women humorists? Sorry. I was not blown away by the humor tomes of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Loved them on the Golden Globes though. And Sisters (coming out soon) looks like a promising film.
So who’s going to make me laugh in this new half decade, if I am still alive to read?
Addendum: November 5, 2015: So happy to say that I have found the women humorists on Erma Bombeck's humor writers site, www.humorwriters.org. Fantastic workshops coming up in March 2016 Dayton, Ohio - think I'll try to go.
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