JUNK DRAWER

RANDOM ACTS OF LITERARY STUPIDITY

A delightfully haphazard anthology of humorous looks at food, work, and life in modern America.

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Debut author Haley offers amusing observations about life in the 21st century in this nonfiction book.

“Will this book change your life?...Will it help you find solutions to the problems that plague you?” asks the author in the opening lines of this book. The answer, per Haley’s characteristically charming, self-deprecating humor, is a resounding, “No.” It will, however, evoke frequent laughter over the course of nearly 40 eclectic short chapters, united only by their genre-defying randomness. One chapter focuses on modern food; the author notes that, while the diet of health-conscious eaters “consists mainly of food yanked from trees and chicken,” those with less discerning palates now have access to abominations like “hot dogs with cheese in the middle” and other concoctions formulated by society’s best “food engineers.” Other chapters offer Covid-19-era exercise tips for the next pandemic (which include “getting the mail”); explain how to “Explode Your Retirement Savings by Maybe Winning Big in Las Vegas”; and outline how to become a “Real Stand-Up Employee” by purchasing a standing desk. One particularly hilarious chapter looks at the official adoption of “golf ball-sized hailstone” as an official unit of measurement used by meteorologists; Haley reports that NASA has followed suit, declaring “yay high” as its new official measurement of distance. With only a handful of exceptions, the book generally avoids scatological or partisan political humor, offering instead a gut-busting collection of family-friendly, non-offensive comedy. Its chapters are supplemented by an ample assortment of photographs with amusing captions and an appendix with instructions for nonplussed readers on how to turn the book’s pages into paper airplanes. Rarely meanspirited, Haley saves his most piercing barbs for himself, noting, for instance, that he “knew he wanted to be a writer the moment he put on his first cardigan sweater about one year ago.” At just over 100 pages, this is an easy read that is best consumed a chapter or two at a time.

A delightfully haphazard anthology of humorous looks at food, work, and life in modern America. (appendix; about the author)

Pub Date: May 30, 2023

ISBN: 9781312543744

Page Count: 124

Publisher: Lulu.com

Review Posted Online: Dec. 1, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2024

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  • IndieBound Bestseller

A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

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The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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  • New York Times Bestseller

CALYPSO

Sedaris at his darkest—and his best.

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In which the veteran humorist enters middle age with fine snark but some trepidation as well.

Mortality is weighing on Sedaris (Theft by Finding: Diaries 1977-2002, 2017, etc.), much of it his own, professional narcissist that he is. Watching an elderly man have a bowel accident on a plane, he dreaded the day when he would be the target of teenagers’ jokes “as they raise their phones to take my picture from behind.” A skin tumor troubled him, but so did the doctor who told him he couldn’t keep it once it was removed. “But it’s my tumor,” he insisted. “I made it.” (Eventually, he found a semitrained doctor to remove and give him the lipoma, which he proceeded to feed to a turtle.) The deaths of others are much on the author’s mind as well: He contemplates the suicide of his sister Tiffany, his alcoholic mother’s death, and his cantankerous father’s erratic behavior. His contemplation of his mother’s drinking—and his family’s denial of it—makes for some of the most poignant writing in the book: The sound of her putting ice in a rocks glass increasingly sounded “like a trigger being cocked.” Despite the gloom, however, frivolity still abides in the Sedaris clan. His summer home on the Carolina coast, which he dubbed the Sea Section, overspills with irreverent bantering between him and his siblings as his long-suffering partner, Hugh, looks on. Sedaris hasn’t lost his capacity for bemused observations of the people he encounters. For example, cashiers who say “have a blessed day” make him feel “like you’ve been sprayed against your will with God cologne.” But bad news has sharpened the author’s humor, and this book is defined by a persistent, engaging bafflement over how seriously or unseriously to take life when it’s increasingly filled with Trump and funerals.

Sedaris at his darkest—and his best.

Pub Date: May 29, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-39238-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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