I 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.
David 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