By September 29, 2009 5 Comments Read More →

True Confessions and Funny Books

092709cov-bigI have a confession to make: I read Parade. Every week, after I work my way through the Sunday paper, or what’s left of it, I turn to this slim little tabloid knowing that I’ve truly saved the best for last. No, I am not particularly interested in learning What America Earns, nor do I match wits with Marilyn Vos Savant. What I want is on page 2: Walter Scott’s Personality Parade.

Q: What ever happened to Johnny Thespian, the handsome star of yesteryear?

A: Funny you should ask! Thespian, who starred as a dreamy doc in the 1970s TV series Generally Hospitable, returns to the Broadway stage this fall after a long absence from the public eye. Burned out by the demands of life as a TV idol, Thespian spent the 1980s and 1990s raising purebred dogs. “Dogs aren’t like people,” he tells us. “They’re loyal and trusting and they’ll still sleep in your bed even if your season premiere gets less than a 3.2 share.” Rejuvenated by all that canine adoration, Thespian is ready to give us humans a chance, too. He’ll be reprising his most famous role for a musical adaption of Hospitable. “Frankly, the money was too good to turn down,” adds Thespian. “I just hope people remember me.” As if we could ever forget!

Okay, so that’s not a real Q&A from Personality Parade, but you get the idea. It reads like someone is writing questions to fit press releases–a publicist’s dream. Mine, too. If you enjoy reading between the lines, and watching hack writers struggle to give meaning to the most vapid celebrity moments, I guarantee that you’ll find this a worthwhile read.

And sometimes, after chuckling my way through Personality Parade–or perhaps tossing it down in disgust if the proceedings aren’t cornball enough, I flick through the rest of it (at 20 pages, it doesn’t take long), pondering ads for skin ointment, laser surgery, and medical alert panic buttons. Last Sunday, I stopped in surprise, my mouth agape. Nick Hornby?! What’s he doing here?

Well, as it turns out, he’s recommending a quirky, interesting list of funny books (“Good Humor Man“). Frankly, I was almost disappointed to learn that this venerable publication has a website–but, because it will unleash pop-up advertisements upon your helpless web browser, you may want to simply scan the titles here. Then again, you really should read Hornby’s annotations, so set your pop-up blockers to “kill,” and I wish you godspeed.

compleet_molesworthDavid Copperfield, by Charles Dickens

The Financial Lives of the Poets, by Jess Walter

Molesworth, by Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle

The Partly Cloudy Patriot, by Sarah Vowell

Them: Adventures With Extremists, by Jon Ronson

Summer Lightning, by P. G. Wodehouse

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Posted in: Book Lists
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About the Author:

Keir Graff is the editor of Booklist Online and the author of five books. His most recent is the middle-grade novel, The Other Felix.

5 Comments on "True Confessions and Funny Books"

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  1. dave_lull@yahoo.com' Dave Lull says:

    You might also enjoy Tod Goldberg’s blog postings on the “Letters to Parade”:

    http://tinyurl.com/y8aht3s

  2. dmenosky@indiana.edu' Dorothy Menosky says:

    I just looked at the list you say came from Hornby (in Parade – which I also read each Sunday after completing my little local paper). Interesting. If you go to Amazon and select the first book on the list, all of Hornby’s choices are listed under the “People who bought this book also bought…” Even in the same order.
    Hmmm. I wonder.

  3. Keir says:

    Dorothy, as you know, at Likely Stories we never, ever deal in innuendo–please, I beg you, spell out your accusation! With “you say,” you seem to infer either that these recommendations were not published in Parade, or that they were indeed attributed to Hornby but not actually selected by him. I think you’re saying the latter but, if so, are you alluding that I am in collusion with Parade in perpetrating this terrible fraud? (I wouldn’t dream of fact-checking such a journalistic paragon.)

    You wonder what? That Parade grabbed the list from Amazon and stuck it under Hornby’s picture and wrote the annotations for him? Frankly, I think it’s unlikely. (If anything, Hornby’s
    publicist would have written them.)

    And, if I may suggest a third option: by the time you visited Amazon, many other readers had, like you, clicked from the list to Amazon, and had in fact purchased the books that Hornby recommended. That would be a pretty plausible explanation as to why you later saw that people who had bought the first book had purchased the others as well, and in order even.

    I’m just spitballing here, but I think it’s a workable theory.

  4. Keir says:

    (And, Dave, I meant to say thanks for the links!)

  5. dmenosky@indiana.edu' Dorothy Menosky says:

    Of course the list was published in parade.
    I’m saying that Hornby (or whomever wrote the list) didn’t really read the books he is recommending. He (or whomever compiled the list) simply took it from the Amazon list.
    All your theories are workable.

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