VANNA KARENINA by Frank Gannon


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Lots of conceptual chortles here in Gannon's second collection of satires, parodies, and such. But no guffaws, for Gannon's humor often involves a clever idea--such as the ironic juxtaposition of Tolstoy and TV-bimbo White in the title--and doesn't go far beyond the initial joke. This slim, if not anorexic, volume aims at many worthy targets--Donald Trump, Joyce Carol Oates, Jay McInerney, Bret Easton Ellis, Allan Bloom--and strikes out against a number of fads--minimalism, oral history, self-help success stories, and the like. But Gannon's strongest pieces are those that bring together the unlikeliest bits of high and low culture: a passage of Kafka's Castle in its colorized version; a gardening column (""good gardening and hideous suffering"") by Charles ""Flowers of Evil"" Baudelaire; video versions of great novels; and, of course, the title piece: ""Happy, perky faces are all the same. Unhappy, unperky laces are all different."" Almost all of Gannon's southern humor (written for Southern Magazine) falls flat, including riffs on the Georgia ""Bulldogs,"" bugs, watermelon, people obsessed with ducks as a design motif, guys named ""Bubbah,"" and astrological signs redesigned for grits-eaters. Among the best literary jests are: the book of Genesis rewritten by novelist Jay McInerny (and inspired by an actual, fatuous remark of editor Gary Fisketjon); the literary remains of a ""post-novel"" novelist; and a delightful parody of Studs Terkel-like testimony gathered in memory of that highlight in labor history--the NFL players' strike. Easily digested humor, with little that sticks to or tickles your ribs.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1988
Publisher: Viking