My New Misquoted Twitter Account

quotation marksI don’t mean that I have been misquoting my new Twitter account. What I mean is that my new Twitter account is about misquotes – real quotes twisted into something slightly different.

I’ve been enjoying being silly while I write on my second blog, A Listophile’s Haven, which if you haven’t visited yet feel free to go visit it and tell me how funny I’m not. But I have been planning for about as long to start a second Twitter account, also for the sake of some silliness, and now it’s finally here and I have it up and running.

So if you want to see me ruin a bunch of famous quotes (of course you do), check it out by clicking here, or if you’re a Twitter user you can find me at @Misquotationed – feel free to follow me too, and of course send requests for quotes for me to ruin if you like.

Many of the quotes I’ll be misquoting are about things I’m interesting in, such as books, music, coffee and so on. A lot of the quotes will be authors and comedians but also some actors, philosophers and other people will be thrown in for good measure. The point is, there might be some interest in it for you if you already follow my blog, so give it a go!

And if you haven’t added me on my normal Twitter account feel free to do that too, by finding me at @abritishperson or by using the Twitter widget on the side of this page! I normally follow back and I only tweet about rubbish some of the time.

 

Book Review: The Pleasure Of My Company

The Pleasure Of My CompanyI came to this book with high expectations. The Pleasure Of My Company is Steve Martin’s second novel/novella, and after having read his third and most recent a couple of years ago, An Object Of Beauty, which blew me away with its eloquent language and profound insights into the world of art, I knew I was probably going to like his first couple of books (I seem to be working my way backwards). Luckily, I wasn’t disappointed.

The Pleasure Of My Company is very different, both in story and character types. Martin is brilliant at painting deeply flawed characters who struggle for one reason or another, but, due to the way he writes and develops them through the story, you tend to fall in love with them as a reader. In this short novel (it’s around 160-170 pages – on the outside is says a novel but inside a novella) the main character is Daniel Pecan Cambridge, a young man somewhere in his late 20s or early 30s (depending on his mood) who suffers from a number of neuroses which leave him mostly trapped inside his house. As a few unexpected events occur in his life, including winning the Tepperton’s Pies Most Average American essay contest, as well as taking in some unexpected guests in need, slowly Daniel’s universe is forced to expand and he gets a taste for what his life could become if he could just break free. Of course, breaking free is not that easy for the modern neurotic.

Daniel is such an unusual character, but Martin has depicted him so vividly by writing from Daniel’s perspective. You get to read his thoughts on the various women in his life, from Elizabeth the real-estate lady to Zandy who works at a shop, to his student-counselor Clarissa. Through these insights, you see the way his mind works as he craves any attention he can get off these three women and dreams up loving relationships with them, even though he also second-guesses himself and wonders if he is just being ridiculous. At one point, when he finally gives up hope on at least one of these women, he says “She had destroyed whatever was between us by making a profound gaffe: She met me.” While quite witty, it also reveals the true nature of Daniel’s mind – self-deprecating and fully aware that his own limitations are not normal. And I think, perhaps, it is this self-awareness that helps us to sympathise and empathise with Daniel, because it brings attention to the fact that deep down he does want to break down some of these barriers in his life.

Martin’s language control throughout the book is quite remarkable, as well, as so much of the feeling of the story comes from the writing. The way Daniel describes situations can be very blunt and matter of fact, but it’s also very important that his fears be made to feel very real. One of his key fears is that of roadside curbs, namely that he cannot walk over them onto the road. But while the actual fear itself seems ridiculous to most readers, the feelings that the fear produces can still be welled up inside us through the use of building atmosphere through long, panicky sentences. As an example, this is a paragraph from one of the times that Daniel does walk over a curb (it happens a few times in the story):

If I’d allowed my body to do what it wanted to do, it would have fallen on its knees and its head on the ground, its arms stretched out on the sidewalk. Its mind would have roiled and its throat would have cried, and nothing but exhaustion would have made it all stop, and nothing but home could have set the scale back in balance. But instead, I marched on, spurred by inertia and the infinitesimal recollection that I had recently crossed a curb and had not died.

It takes Daniel nearly two more pages of writing to actually cross the dreaded curb here of which he speaks, but through the use of such language as this we find ourselves rooting for him as some kind of unlikely hero, as if he were facing a much more serious threat than he actually is, and that really is a sign of clever writing.

Ultimately, The Pleasure Of My Company is a triumph over adversity, and a fascinating view into a life that many of us could never even imagine. It is funny, sweet, tender and brave, and is a testament to Martin’s ability as a writer and a storyteller. If you haven’t read any of Martin’s fictional writing, I urge you to give it a try – he’s not just “a good writer for a comedian/actor”, he’s a brilliant writer full stop.

Tomorrow is Towel Day!

Don't Panic and Carry A TowelWhat is Towel Day, you ask? Towel Day is a day celebrated on May 25 every year as a tribute to Douglas Adams. Organised just 2 weeks after his death on May 11, 2001, Towel Day has become a worldwide event with happenings in cities all over the world. And all you need to do to show appreciation for the man and his books is to carry a towel around with you all day.

To see the events that are happening in your country, look down the list on the official website for Towel Day. There is a lot happening and it’s a good way to meet other Douglas Adams fans (which are surely some of the coolest people around).

But why a towel, you might wonder? Well, in chapter three of The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy is a rather in-depth explanation of the importance of towels, which apparently is based on a hitchhiking guide to Europe that Adams read which also stressed the importance of towels. The explanation goes as follows:

A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have “lost.” What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.

So, if you’re a Douglas Adams fan, make sure wherever you go and whatever you do tomorrow that you take a towel with you and maybe check out events near you. And if you’re yet to read Douglas Adams, tomorrow is as good a day as any to make a start!

Introducing My Second Blog – One for list-lovers

Since January 2012, I’ve been informing thousands of amazing readers all over the world of my ridiculous thoughts and feelings on a range of things, most notably books, music, comedy, and occasionally donkeys. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed doing this and I have no plans to stop it, so don’t worry this blog will continue as usual.

But I have felt a growing desire to start a second blog for some time. Something entirely different to my main blog here, something that would be more creative and more than likely quite silly. I remember growing up as a teenager that I used to read a lot of lists, not only in the form of books like 1001 Books/Movies/Albums to Read/See/Hear before you die, but also in the form of “20 things not to do in an elevator” and other silly ideas like that.

So I decided my second blog would focus on lists. Lists of silly and hopefully funny things that I’ll come up with, but occasionally something more interesting or serious too. But mostly I plan to write fun lists, and most importantly I’ll be writing all of them myself rather than just reposting stuff already out there on the internet.

The new blog is at alistophilehaven.wordpress.com mostly because my blog is called A Listophile’s Haven (I just dropped the apostrophe and s from the url). Right now it only has one list and the about page has been filled out, but I will be adding more lists over the next few days before slowing down to a couple of posts a week on there (as I have already committed myself to a minimum of three on here).

Go visit my new blog, let me know what you think of it, follow it, leave me comments and suggestions if you want, and please if you like it share it with others and spread the word. I’m quite excited to see what I can make of it, and I hope if nothing else I can put a smile on your faces or maybe even make you laugh!

A Listophile's Haven home page

Book Review: The Last Girlfriend On Earth

The Last Girlfriend On EarthWriting a lot of short stories last month reminded me of one thing – I need to read more short stories. I mentioned the hilarious collection of short stories by Simon Rich, called The Last Girlfriend On Earth And Other Love Stories, back in this post when I was only 40 pages in, and when I sat down to read more of it two days ago I ended up reading the entire remains of the book in one sitting. I also laughed. A lot.

Up until recently, Rich worked as a writer for Saturday Night Live (he now works for Pixar), so really you would expect him to be able to induce a few laughs with his writing. However I didn’t realise this when I read this book, and was taken quite by surprise just how funny it was. Often funny books make me smile, or sometimes laugh once or twice, but I was laughing repeatedly as I read this and I am now very curious about his other books.

The stories, about 30 in total over 200 odd pages, are divided into three sections – Boy Meets Girl, Boy Gets Girl, and Boy Loses Girl. Despite this, there is a strong cynicism about love and relationships and how people act in relationships through all three parts of the book. For example, in the Boy Gets Girl section is a short story called “Girlfriend Repair Shop”, in which a guy and girl are sitting in a relationship counselling office and it becomes clear that the guy is to blame for the issues the couple are experiencing. But then, instead of dealing with it properly, the guy takes the girl to a repair shop so she’ll stop complaining and return to the blissful person she was at the start of the relationship. While it is quite funny it also makes a good point, as a lot of people seem to be disappointed when relationships don’t retain that honeymoon feeling forever and they realise they have to work hard to keep both people happy. A lot of this social commentary lurks underneath the surface of almost every story in this book, but it by no means takes away from the humour, thankfully.

One key feature of the stories in this book is the use of surrealism – I mean, the book begins with a story about a sentient condom who ends up in a wallet and talks to the other contents of the wallet over time as he slowly tries to figure out what his purpose in life might be. There’s countless references to mythology, such as “Sirens of Gowanus” in which a man is lured by a several thousand year old Siren in modern times, “Cupid”, which features an alcoholic Cupid who isn’t doing his job of making people fall in love, and “Children of the Dirt” which explores the origins of sexual orientations. Then there’s the short but sweet stories – “Dog Missed Connections” is just a couple of pages of what appear to be ads on a Dog Dating site (and this one I absolutely howled in laughter at), “Celebrity Sexceptions” which reads almost like a long joke with a very good punchline, and “Ludlow Lounge” which is a futuristic look at relationships. There is “I Love Girl”, about love in the time of cavemen, the slightly disturbing but very clever “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”, and so much more than I have time to go into here.

The writing itself is sharp and witty, but very varied in style to suit all the different scenarios. Somehow though it never feels forced at any point – you get the feeling that Rich thoroughly enjoyed writing a lot of these tales. Through the constantly changing settings and the alternating between longer and shorter stories, it’s hard to lose interest as you read this book (part of how I read it mostly in one sitting).

If you feel like reading something that will actually make you laugh, and some short stories that are clever, thought provoking and actually quite short, you should pick up this book. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

The Hyperbole and a Half book – when great blogs make great books

Hyperbole and a Half Book CoverIf you don’t know what Hyperbole and a Half is, you probably should go there right now by clicking on the link half a sentence ago. It’s an amazing blog by Allie Brosh in which she tells tales from her life in a hilarious fashion accompanied by drawings done on Microsoft Paint and done badly on purpose because it’s kind of funny. Her blog is award-winning, and her depictions of her own experiences with depression have been greatly praised by many experts for conveying it so accurately (part two of this blog, which appeared after over a year’s absence, had more than a million hits on the first day apparently).

Upon her return she announced she was working on a book, which would comprise of some of her funniest stories from her blog while also including several new ones (which aren’t on her website). Sometimes when bloggers or cartoonists make books, they don’t have much new content, or at least nothing  really enticing to make it warrant actually buying the book. But this case is an exception – if you like the blog you must buy this book. Please. Just do it. You won’t regret it.

The stories she has chosen from her blog to include in this collection include two of my favourites, The God Of Cake and Party, as well as both parts of the Depression posts (which you should go read on her website if you haven’t already). Some of her new tales include more stories from her childhood, more stories about her frighteningly simple dogs including one that is addressed to them in the hope of helping them survive normal situations in life (with a hilarious Q&A section with questions from the dogs themselves), and more reflections on her own identity as an adult. The new material is just as good as her best work, and just as funny and insightful, and it’s clear she put a lot of effort into this book and didn’t just rush it to try and get it out on the shelves already.

What I particularly love about a lot of Brosh’s writing, apart from how funny it is, is the fact that so much of it is relatable. Sure, not everybody has dogs quite so lacking in the brain department as hers, but dogs are odd creatures who do bizarre things for no reason and she explores that phenomenon so well. Not everybody has experienced what she has, but a lot of people have, and those who haven’t have at the very least probably shared some of the thought processes she explains in this, despite how seemingly ridiculous they are. And everybody can relate to the insane childhood stories – we all probably have similar memories of our childhoods whether we remember them or not. There is something impressive though about the way that she can make these stories seem so much like something all of us have been through and at the same time clearly unique and personal, with her own distinct voice shining through both the words and the drawings.

If you have ever read this blog you must buy this book, as you will love it. If you have never read her blog, go read it first, then buy the book, as you too will love it. If I ever wrote a book half as funny as this one, I would be over the moon!

What are your thoughts on the blog Hyperbole And A Half?

What other blogs turned into books have you read that you would recommend?

When Webcomics Become Books (Silly Books #3)

It’s been a long time since I wrote a post about the silly books in my collection (you can visit my first post here and my second post here), but at long last this entirely irregular feature has returned in all its complete lack of glory.

In this instalment, I am looking specifically at books released by the authors of some of the funnier webcomics that I find myself viewing online on a regular basis. Of course, this begs the question: if you can view the webcomics online for free, why would you pay money just to have them in book form? Read on to discover my thoughts on the matter.

Ice Cream & Sadness: Cyanide & Happiness Vol. 2 by Kris, Rob, Matt & Dave

Cyanide & Happiness is easily one of the most offensive webcomics on the internet. It is also one of the most successful and long-running online comics (since 2005), and it stands as a peak of internet hilarity to which many other webcomic artists aspire. This is their second book, and is substantially better than their first, because it not only includes another 150 classic strips, and 30 new strips, but also an “Interactivities” section, with various inappropriate but fun activities to complete (or just laugh at). Is this book worth purchasing despite the thousands of comics already online? Absolutely!

A Dose of Awkward: Left-Handed Toons (by Right-Handed People) by Drew Mokris & Justin Boyd

The webcomic from which this book derives, Left-Handed Toons, is based on an interesting idea – the drawings are made by two right-handed people, but using their left, non-dominant hands. As a result, the comics are badly drawn, but in a kind of funny way, and when combined with the obscure wit of both authors, the result is hilarious. The book doesn’t present anything new, but it does vaguely categorise the comics contained within. Is it worth buying? If you enjoy it, I’d say yes – probably look up the website first before spending money on the book, just to make sure it’s your kind of humour.

5 Very Good Reasons To Punch A Dolphin In The Mouth (And Other Useful Guides) by The Oatmeal

The Oatmeal is a hugely successful webcomic/blog run entirely by one man, Matthew Inman. For the most part, it consists of odd little guides to things, along with exaggerated drawings that are often just as funny as the concepts themselves. Many of the guides centre around issues of grammar and spelling, but others are much more random, such as ‘8 Ways to Prepare Your Pets For War’ and ‘7 Reasons to Keep Your Tyrannosaur off Crack Cocaine” among many more. The book features some of the best of these guides and lists, along with new comics and even a pull out poster. Is this worth an investment of your hard-earned cash? Definitely (with an ‘i’, not an ‘a’, as one of his spelling guides will inform you).

This is by no means an exhaustive list of webcomics that have released books, so chances are I will come back and do another one of these down the track.

Do you think it’s worth spending money on something you can view for free online? Would you buy these books?

Much Obliged, Jeeves: A review

I’ve managed to finish two books in the last couple of days, including Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (which I will review doubled up with Mockingjay a bit later on, for various reasons), and just today, Much Obliged, Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse. Having discussed Wodehouse before but never reviewing one of his books on its own, I thought, well, why not do it now?

It is tricky to review any Wodehouse book, to be honest. As Stephen Fry puts it, on the cover of this book, “You don’t analyse such sunlit perfection, you just bask in its warmth and splendour.” I must confess, I tend to agree with Fry on this one – there is something about the way Wodehouse writes which resists any analysis and critique, and I suspect he is one of the only writers in the history of writing in the English language who has managed to achieve this.

Much Obliged, Jeeves is part of the ‘Jeeves and Wooster’ series of novels, and compared with those which I have read so far, the story in this one stood out particularly as being a little more unique, while reprising many beloved characters and places from previous stories. Set in a place known as Market Snodsbury, the story centres around a chaotic local election between Bertie Wooster’s friend Ginger, and the rather firm and powerful Mrs McCorkadale. In the mix of all this are numerous engagements (with varying degrees of amiability between the couples), Bertie’s Aunt Dahlia, where everybody is staying, and who is trying to extort a large amount of money from the grumpy old Runkle by softening him up with her chef Anatole’s amazing cooking, and a book known as the Book of Revelations – a book shared among butlers which contains all of the deeds and misdeeds, routines and bad habits of their employers. When the book suddenly disappears, the dignity and respect of several people becomes jeopardised, including those involved in the election.

The story is great, and leaves you guessing right up until the last few pages how it will ever be resolved, and as always the resolution is startling in its simplicity and genius. If I were to critique one aspect of this novel, it is that the wit doesn’t seem as sharp as it has in other Wodehouse books I have read – however, this is only comparing it to other Wodehouse books, as on its own against most literature this novel is still highly witty and hilarious. And considering this book was first published in 1971, when Wodehouse would have been in his late eighties, it goes to show that even old age bore no real threat to his intelligence, charm and general verbosity.

I wouldn’t recommend Much Obliged, Jeeves as a first Wodehouse novel for those yet to read him, as it mentions far too many events and characters who have no meaning unless you have read his earlier works (I always suggest to start with Thank You, Jeeves), but for those more seasoned readers of this series (by which I mean you have read at least three or four), there is plenty of fun to be had between the covers of this book. For those interested, I rated this four out of five on GoodReads (and gave a considerably shorter review on there similar to this one).

Lastly, I have to share my favourite line from the book: “Where one goes wrong in looking for the ideal girl is in making one’s selection before walking the full length of the counter.”

What books have you finished recently?

Have you read any Wodehouse novels in recent times (especially as I keep bringing him up)?

More silly books (that are worth reading)

I quite enjoyed writing my last post about some of the sillier books I own, a couple of weeks ago, so I thought I would write another post on this topic (I own a lot of silly books – you need a break from literature every now and then). So here we go….

Rhyming Cockney Slang edited by Jack Jones

This amazing little book has been in print since 1971, and still seems to be relatively popular. It briefly explains how Cockney works, before providing an A to Z of Cockney to English, and then the same again for English to Cockney, alongside illustrations. It is remarkably simple, but actually really helps to understand how this bizarre slang works, and is in a book so small you can fit it in your pocket. It is not at all a definitive book, but it helps to get the main idea across. It also provides plenty of laughs.

Shitedoku by A. Parody (Alastair Chisholm)

One of the silliest parodies ever, this book is essentially full of sudoku puzzles, only instead of using the numbers 1 through to 9, it uses the letters from the word Shitedoku. It also includes a foreword the explains the origins of sudoku and shitedoku (also quite silly). Although it shouldn’t be that funny, I bought the book all the same, and have completed many of the puzzles inside.

Should You Be Laughing At This? by Hugleikur Dagsson

This Icelandic cartoonist is a cult hit in his home country, and in recent years his cartoons have been published in English, this book being the first of several books. The cartoons are very basic in how they are drawn, and they are all essentially single panel drawings with a stick figure level of quality. The humour, however, is downright weird, and is really not for everyone. Much of the comedy is based on shock value, and really takes this kind of humour to new heights (or lows). It made me laugh, though, and I do wonder if it reveals something about the Icelandic sense of humour.

Drunk, Insane or Australian by Alan Veitch

I bought this book for 50 cents from a local school fete several years ago, and it turned out to be a good investment. Published in the 1980s, it is a look at some of the most bizarre and funniest events in recent Australian history, many of which are very typically and uniquely Australian. I imagine it is very hard to find these days, which is a shame, as it reveals a lot about the quirkiness of Aussie culture, and is quite a funny read too.

 

I still have only really looked at the tip of the iceberg which makes up the silly books section of my book collection, so no doubt there will be a third one of these posts in the future. For now though, happy reading!

Silly and funny books that are worth your time

I realised earlier that it has been a little while since I last blogged about books, so I thought I would return to the main topic of my blog once again. Having finished the 30 Day Book Challenge, I realise I still haven’t talked about, well, most of my books! So while I will have new books I’m reading which I plan to review on here, I also figured it would be fun to go back over some books I have already read, and perhaps find fun and new ways to explore them as well.

So today I thought I’d look at some silly books that I thought were worth reading (I suspect I will do a few blogs on this topic over time). Silly books are often underrated, lumped in the humour section that often is ignored and badly displayed in a lot of bookstores. And, to be fair, a lot of books I have seen in the humour sections in stores do tend to be a little on the mediocre side, but there are some great, silly and funny humour books out there that can be easily missed if you’re not actively looking for them, so I’m going to show some of my favourites, starting with three for this post.

1. Great Lies to Tell Small Kids by Andy Riley

This book is a hilarious, delightful collection of lies to tell small kids, along with illustrations. Andy Riley has written lots of these kind of books, and from this particular book spawned a sequel, plus Wine Makes Mummy Clever and Beer Makes Daddy Strong. Some of my favourite lies in this book include “it’s unlucky not to name every ant you see,” “all wind is made by wind farms,” “two in every forty thousand cars leave the factory as siamese cars” (the illustration for this one is fantastic), and my personal favourite, this one:

You should definitely find the time to read through this book and its sequel, as they are both funny, heart-warmingly mean, and good for ideas.

2. The Feckin’ Book of Everything Irish by Colin Murphy & Donal O’Dea

The full name for this book on the front of the cover is The Feckin’ book of Everything Irish that’ll have ye effin’ an’ blindin’ wojus slang, blatherin’ deadly quotations, beltin’ out ballads while scuttered, cookin’ an Irish Mammy’s recipes, and saying things like ‘I will in me arse.’ Pretty much, that name covers the things to be found in this book, which is essentially a hilarious guide to the language and culture of Ireland, and a good way to learn a lot about the country while having a few laughs along the way. This book is also an omnibus of several smaller books (hence the ridiculously long name). Definitely worth a read.

3. The Alphabet of Manliness by Maddox

If you are easily offended, or likely to be offended by stereotypes of what makes a man particularly masculine, you will probably be offended by this book. If you are not easily offended, you will probably still be offended by this book. But in a good way, I promise. The author is insanely popular on the internet for his long running blog The Best Page In The Universe, and more recently I Am Better Than Your Kids, the latter of which has since been turned into a book. This little gem quite literally goes through the alphabet, identifying each letter with something about being a man; for example, “A is for Ass-kicking,” “I is for Irate,” “J is for Beef Jerky,” and so on, all done with lengthy explanations and illustrations. This book isn’t for everyone, and tends to be either loved or hated by most people. But I would certainly recommend it to people who possess a sense of humour not easily offended.

So, have you read any of these books, and if so, what were your opinions? Do you have any silly books you think are great and perhaps a little underrated?