Friday, December 2, 2011

Sardonic Laughs for the Literary Types

Before Thanksgiving, one of my friends with a killer sense of humor sent me a link to a snarky and profane column by Colin Nissan from the web site McSweeney’s Internet Tendency about autumnal decorative gourd season gone awry. Oh my God. It was damn funny, the perfect antidote to over-the-top, Good Housekeeping-type of fall home decorating tips.

As a result of reading that column, I’ve been noodling around on the site for the past week and found other pieces that were witty and cutting, though not as profane as Nissan’s. Two of my favorites:

Writer Cirocco Dunlap’s “Literary Genre Translations” took one sentence -- “I ate a sandwich and looked out the window” – and translated it according to various genres of books. The results were hilarious.

The Russian Classic version of that same sentence:

“I, Shanvokovic, steadily finished my becoldened soup made by Gregorinoviczh as if the weight on my conscience weren’t pressing deep down into my darkening soul. I looked out the architect’s airhole into the bleak grey of the day – grey, indeed, as my mortality – as I waited for the sweet nightshade to seep into my bloodstream and for Borsha to find my explanatory farewell tome.”

The 19th Century British Romance version:

“Being but a governess with no prospects but a fierce wit and a quick temper which is out of mode, I nibbled a soda biscuit and looked off into the glade, awaiting my dear friend – whom I surely could not come to love – Mr. Wadswortherton.”

Then there was Karen Gilmore’s “An Open Letter to Friends and Family Regarding Inquiries About My Reproductive Plans.” Modeled after literary agents’ submission guidelines which tell writers exactly, in precise detail, what they should and shouldn’t do in order to be afforded the opportunity for an agent to simply glance at their cover letter extolling the virtues of their unpublished manuscript, Gilmore wrote:

“Dear Friends and Family,

Thank you for your interest in my reproductive plans. Before submitting your inquiry, please read the submission guidelines below.”

On “Simultaneous Submissions,” she wrote:

“Please do not simultaneously submit the same inquiry regarding our reproductive plans to both my husband and I. This could confuse us and if you confuse us, we may accidentally delete your query without responding to it and then we will laugh maniacally and sleep the peaceful, uninterrupted sleep of the childless.”

I so needed to find this web site. Since there haven’t been many new David Sedaris and Dave Barry columns to read on a regular basis, I’ve had this void in my life when it came to this kind of comedic writing. McSweeney’s fits that void very nicely.

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