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  • Jeff Somers 7:30 pm on 2017/05/24 Permalink
    Tags: , , , diaries, , Humor, ,   

    10 Hilarious, Remarkable, and Poignant Moments in David Sedaris’ Theft by Finding 

    The humor of David Sedaris is often so understated it feels perfectly naturalistic, as if he’s simply making up droll anecdotes off the top of his head. But Sedaris worked at his craft for decades, and often despaired of ever succeeding at the writing game.

    This struggle is at the center of Sedaris’ new book, Theft by Finding, a collection literally taken from the diaries he has kept for more than forty years. Unvarnished, these entries offer up plenty of interesting and funny moments, some of which also serve as launchpads for his famous essays. Here are just ten moments in Theft by Finding (which ends in 2002, with a second volume to follow) that are alternatively hilarious, touching, and thought-provoking.

    Rapid-Fire Wit
    In the introduction, Sedaris interrupts a thoughtful rumination on the process of keeping a diary: “The point is to find out who you are and to be true to that person. Because so often you can’t. Won’t people turn away if they know the real me? you wonder. That me that hates my own child, that put my perfectly healthy dog to sleep? The me who thinks, deep down, that maybe The Wire was overrated?”

    At the bottom of the page, a footnote addresses what Sedaris hilariously imagines is the gravest sin admitted to in that paragraph: “I do not think The Wire was overrated.”

    The Banality of Evil
    Sedaris encounters all manner of freaks, weirdos, and oddballs, especially during his penniless days working odd jobs and obsessing over money. He never fails to make these moments count by injecting them with sophisticated humor. “Jews in concentration camps had shaved heads and tattoos,” he writes at one point about a skinhead in Chicago, “you’d think the anti-Semites would go for a different look.”

    Mistakes, He’s Made a Few
    One of the most remarkable aspects of reading Sedaris’ diary entries is how much we already know about his low moments and bad habits. Early on, in one of the first glimpses of his drug-fueled youth, he writes “Todd and I each took three hits of sugar cube acid. Too much. It was a real bad trip, like torture, enough to turn someone into a Christian.”

    The Time Machine
    Another fascinating aspect of Theft by Finding is literally traveling back in time through Sedaris’ writing. This comes through as both throwaway lines that remind us of zeitgeists past (“No matter where you go, you cannot escape the Bee Gees”) and devastating moments that call to mind what we have survived (in July 1981, Sedaris writes, “There is a new cancer that strikes only homosexual men. I heard about it on the radio tonight.”)

    The Heartbreak Kid
    Part of Sedaris’ appeal is the sad-sack aspect of his persona; he encounters the sort of terrible people we’re all far too familiar with—and he manages to turn his anger and hurt into savage humor, as in this line about a duplicitous lover named Brant he meets as a young man: “During sex he kept telling me that he loved me and wanted to get married, presumably in the next five weeks before he returns to Norfolk for the Summer.”

    He drops the hammer in the next entry: “I called the number Brant gave me, and it was made up.”

    Self-Awareness for the Win
    While it’s possible these entries have been edited and massaged more than we know, they remain remarkably clear-eyed. After the subject of attempting sobriety after being “drunk every night for the past eighteen years” comes up, Sedaris adds in this two-sentence entry: “Today I saw a one-armed dwarf carrying a skateboard. It’s been ninety days since I’ve had a drink.”

    Days of Future Past
    It’s thrilling when kernels of Sedaris’ formal work pop up in his diaries—you can almost see the wheels turning, as when he alludes to his time at SantaLand: “Yesterday a woman had her son pee into a cup, which of course tipped over. ‛That’s fine,’ I said, ‛but Santa’s also going to need a stool sample.’”

    Substance Humor
    The diary never treats Sedaris’ drinking and drug abuse in a melodramatic way, and it’s often the source of some of the book’s funniest bits, as when he describes the suffering of a hungover friend: “You’d think an adult would know better: beer on wine, you’re fine. Wine on beer, stand clear. But eleven Prosecco cocktails should not precede anything, not even a twelfth.”
    These are, it goes without saying, words to live by.

    Full Heart
    It’s not all jokes and skinheads; Sedaris also celebrates life’s incredible moments along the way, as when he first meets his future husband, Hugh: “I…got him to say that he hated me, which usually means the opposite….When I turned around to look at him, I saw that he’d turned around as well. It was romantic.”

    Simple Hilarity
    No matter how serious life gets, though, Sedaris can’t help but be funny, so let’s just include three random moments of hilarity we loved:

    “Talked to Rodrigo, who uses camebackir as a verb meaning ‛to come back.’ Nosotros comebackamos. ‛We come back.’”

    “Tiffany…is living in Queens and selling cocaine to make money. Before this she worked at Macy’s for a Belgian chocolate company. I think hers is what you call a checkered career.”

    “It turned out they were a pair of Jehovah’s Witnesses. This is better than being a pair of thieves, but still.”

    Theft by Finding is a surprising and unique work, the raw experiences of one of our most accomplished humorists and writers laid bare for our amusement and inspection. It’s also almost novelistic in the story of a life that it paints, slowly revealing themes, recurring characters, and a narrative drive that mirrors Sedaris’ development as a human being and an artist. In a word, it’s terrific.

    Shop all literary biography >

    The post 10 Hilarious, Remarkable, and Poignant Moments in David Sedaris’ Theft by Finding appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jen Harper 1:00 pm on 2017/03/07 Permalink
    Tags: , , Humor, , , , you are here: an owner's manual for dangerous minds   

    Jenny Lawson’s You Are Here: An Owner’s Manual for Dangerous Minds: Self-Help Coloring Book Is Profanely Profound 

    Jenny Lawson’s new book, You Are Here: An Owner’s Manual for Dangerous Minds, hits shelves March 7, and it couldn’t have arrived at a better time for me. Like 40 million other American adults, I have an anxiety disorder—it’s not who I am; it’s just something I have, like brown hair or farsightedness or the Moana soundtrack stuck in my head.

    Like a bunch of us, one of the things I do to cope with the disorder is take medication for it. Unfortunately, a few weeks ago, my medication stopped working—it happens sometimes. So imagine my sheer delight when, while waiting for the new med to start doing its job, a handy self-help coloring book (totally a real thing) lands on my doorstep, and it’s by none other than the hilariously candid, awesomely quirky, fellow mental-illness-haver Jenny Lawson. If you’re not familiar with Lawson’s writing, you should probably call in sick to work, hole up in a pillow fort, and dive into this woman’s wonderful and weird world: Her taxidermy collection includes a pegasus and at least two maniacally smiling raccoons. She brought a koala costume all the way to Australia in hopes of wearing it while holding a real koala. She’s afraid of finding dead bodies in public bathroom stalls. And she once fended off some neighborhood swans who allegedly wanted to eat her.

    Lawson is the writer behind popular blog The Bloggess and author of bestselling memoirs Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, which details her eccentric upbringing by a taxidermist father with a propensity for bringing home roadkill, and Furiously Happy, a funny, irreverent, and honest collection of essays about Lawson’s struggles with and triumphs over depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses.

    Her new book, You Are Here, is a somewhat different beast but every bit as magical. It’s still her voice, her heart, her humor on the page, but it’s only part narrative. It’s also part therapy—the kind that won’t cost you $150 an hour—part inspirational quotes, with some pages containing only two lines of funny, earnest, touching, and sometimes profane insights; and part grown-up coloring book, made up of Lawson’s own doodles of patterns, faces, and words created while waiting for an anxiety attack to pass.

    Another thing that sets this book apart from Lawson’s others is that it’s not just the tribe leader speaking to the members—you’re part of this. You are here. You, the reader, are necessary to create and finish this weird and wonderful book written by your bizarro BFF who just gets you. You can fill in the intricate black-and-white drawings with your own world of color; complete lists Lawson has started for you—like the five most outrageous things you’ve done, at least one of which is a lie; oust your demons by writing your fears on a completely black page and then ripping it from the book; and even draw your own doodles.

    I laughed out loud and cried—also out loud—while reading Lawson’s words and examining the pictures and her captions. And I’m excited to actually put gel pens to paper to color in these amazing images of whales, a knife-wielding pigeon, wacky women, and a bonnet-wearing T-rex, among others. Here’s hoping my OCD and perfectionism will allow me to push through and actually color the pictures without fear of ruining their beauty—something I think Lawson herself would say just isn’t possible.

    Mental illness tells us we are lost, unworthy, broken, and will never be whole. Mental illness lies. But Lawson doesn’t. Her honesty, humor, and vulnerability in this book will inspire you. And many of the vignettes in You Are Here will undoubtedly nestle into your brain and stay awhile. This is the one that has permanently set up residency in mine and perfectly sums up the power of this slim volume:

    “Once upon a time, there was a girl who forgot the rest of her story so she had to make it up as she went along. She kept it a secret all of her life. And one day when she was 99 she whispered this very confession to her husband. He paused and smiled kindly and told her that everyone was just making it up as they went along. And she was happy and sad all at once, and also a little bit relieved that she hadn’t known it all along. And that was the end.”

    You Are Here: An Owner’s Manual for Dangerous Minds is on B&N bookshelves now.

    The post Jenny Lawson’s You Are Here: An Owner’s Manual for Dangerous Minds: Self-Help Coloring Book Is Profanely Profound appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Ross Johnson 4:00 pm on 2016/11/02 Permalink
    Tags: bnstorefront-books-that-make-you-lol, , , Humor   

    Books That’ll Make You Laugh Out Loud 

    So, here’s the thing: 2016 has gotten heavy. From a divisive political landscape to major shakeups on The Great British Bake-Off, this has not been a year for the faint of heart. As it draws to a close, it is important—nay, imperative!—that we remember to laugh. As you’re doing your end-of-year holiday shopping, remember two things: laughter is the gift that keeps on giving…and in some cases humor is best left to the professionals. The books below are guaranteed to make your gift recipient (or you!) LOL.

    The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, by Amy Schumer
    There are few hotter names in comedy right now then Amy Schumer, actress, author, and eponymous star of Inside Amy Schumer. In her debut book, she promises no advice or self-help, instead offering a series of personal essays that are both funny and real. Schumer has always been unflinching in her willingness to share, and almost allergic to propriety, and mines loads of laughs from a genuine and wide-ranging look at her career and personal life.

    Good Clean Fun: Misadventures in Sawdust at Offerman Woodshop, by Nick Offerman
    Those of us still in mourning the ending of Parks and Recreation (or who just love woodworking) will enjoy this legitimate and legitimately funny guide to woodcraft. The Offerman Woodshop is a for-real woodworking collective outside of Los Angeles, but his offbeat (meaning: downright weird) sense of humor results in a book full of commentary and personal anecdotes. It’s funny enough for the Offerman fan on your gift list, as well as informative and full of very pretty pictures of wood.

    404 Not Found: A Coloring Book by The Oatmeal, by The Oatmeal and Matthew Inman
    Mastermind Matthew Inman (aka The Oatmeal), the mad genius cartoonist behind Exploding Kittens and the collection How to Tell If Your Cat Is Plotting to Kill You, has fully embraced the hot new trend of coloring to produce a book that’s both way funnier and way easier to color than your average “adult” coloring book. Telling the story of robot #404, who has gone missing from Robot City, the book is perfectly appropriate for all ages, and includes secret hidden objects within the cartoons—things like a hairy pickle, cat poop, and a gopher’s bum. You get the idea.

    Best. State. Ever.: A Florida Man Defends His Homeland, by Dave Barry
    Barry is one of our most venerable comic voices, with a career that spans several decades and across mediums. And he knows of what he speaks: Florida is his home, as well as the preferred target for his breezy, observational brand of humor. In the past, he’s suggested the country might be better off if all of South Florida were to float off into the sea, so the state doesn’t get off nearly as easily as the book’s title might lead you to believe. Still, nastiness is by no means Dave’s style, and the longtime Sunshine State resident has a genuine affection for Florida, and all of the things and people that make it a bit of an enigma to the rest of us. His visits to the Skunk Ape Research Headquarters, roadside attraction Weeki Wachee Springs, and Gatorland are sprinkled heavily with his enduring grasp of the the absurd and strange love of the illogical.

    Carry This Book, by Abbi Jacobson
    Another multitalented comedian, Abbi Jacobson is the co-creator and star of TV series Broad City, but she’s also an illustrator. In Carry This Book, Jacobson not only writes but draws and colors a series of images showing what some real and some fictional individuals might be carrying in their purses, bags, or glove compartments. We’ve all been wondering what’s in Oprah’s purse, right? (Happen upon her at the right moment, and you might be the recipient of one of Oprah’s spare “You get a car!” car keys.) And who knew about Donald Trump’s “Make Your Hair Great Again” comb? It’s not only funny and charming, but a font of information about the celebrities that you love, or otherwise.

    The post Books That’ll Make You Laugh Out Loud appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Whitney Collins 9:00 pm on 2016/08/18 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , Humor, , , tell-alls   

    Honest, Tender, Normal, Dark: 4 Ways Amy Schumer’s New Memoir Is Not What You’d Expect 

    The inimitable Amy Schumer, known for her brash and unabashed standup comedy (as well as her Emmy-winning show Inside Amy Schumer and Hollywood blockbuster Trainwreck), has published a memoir, and it’s not what you’d expect. Yes, it’s full of humor and, yes, Schumer has plenty to say about sex, but The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo surprises readers by introducing them to an Amy fans and critics have never met. Schumer’s autobiography reveals a woman both more complex and more ordinary than the persona seen on stage and screen. Here are four ways The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo will astound you.

    It’s Honest
    Anyone familiar with Amy Schumer’s standup knows she doesn’t sugarcoat her intimate escapades or her love of pasta with parmesan cheese. But beyond the frankness of her sex life and food cravings, audiences have never been privy to her world laid bare. In The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, Amy gets real about her teenage shoplifting habit, her mother’s unorthodox style of discussing the facts of life, and her botched bat mitzvah. She also talks about her family’s financial woes, as well as that time, when she was 9, that she demanded to see a shrink so she could name ALL her fears, specifically earthquakes and getting a tapeworm.

    But one of the funnier instances of honesty in Schumer’s book is her chapter titled “What I Want People To Say At My Funeral.” This gem of a section humanizes superstar Schumer and shows how she wants others to see her (as endlessly generous), how she hopes to be remembered (as making everyone feel better), and how she’d liked to be honored (guests should bring pasta dishes to the funeral and pour them into her coffin).

    It’s Normal
    Amy Schumer is no diva; she’s just your average self-described “introverted,” “half-Jew,” “Long Island trash receptacle” who struggles with things regular people struggle with: making small talk, enduring family gatherings, sitting through long meetings, and managing weight gain, bad hair, and trying to keep it real. Wealth is novel to her (she has an entire chapter “On Being New Money”), and she doesn’t take her success for granted. In fact, she gives lots of her income away, sometimes tipping outrageously, sometimes taking her sister to Europe, sometimes giving generously to families affected by PTSD.

    Amy has also had a lot of everyday jobs. She’s been a bartender at a lesbian bar, a fry cook, a hot dog seller, a barbershop sweeper, a steakhouse server, a basketball referee, and a fitness instructor, so Hollywood fame is still something of a shock. All that said, the best instances of Schumer’s normal-ness shine through in the old diary excerpts sprinkled (and hilariously footnoted) throughout the book. If you weren’t convinced of Schumer’s girl-next-door status, one read of her 1994-era journal entry and you’ll be convinced.

    It’s Dark
    It’s easy to think famous folks, particularly funny ones, live lives full of sunshine and frivolity, but Schumer’s memoir can go surprisingly and refreshingly dark. For starters, she tells all about her ailing father’s battle with multiple sclerosis. Like the heartbreaking times he publicly soiled himself, the last time she was able to go bodysurfing with him, and how a stem cell advancement brought him to tears. She also dishes on her long history of binge drinking and blackouts, the troubling way she lost her virginity, and how the victims of gun violence have changed her life permanently.

    Most dark is her chapter about Dan, a man who physically and emotionally abused her. Her candidness about domestic violence, and how even strong, outspoken women like herself can become victims, is a compelling and important read. Schumer’s honesty isn’t just unexpected, it could potentially save a life.

    It’s Tender
    Schumer may be known for speaking her mind, telling people off, and pulling the Irish goodbye, but she’s also incredibly loyal and tender. In her memoir, she consistently gushes over her brother and sister and niece, clearly adores her Inside Amy Schumer staff and assistants, and waxes wistful about her childhood and parents and high school friends. She also devotes an entire (outrageously funny) chapter to her ugly stuffed animal collection, and shares cherished memories of the time she spent working at a summer camp for people with special needs.

    Schumer is able to get sweet without being sappy; she’s able to show us her soft side without compromising her grit. And we get to see this best in a section titled “Things That Make Me Happy.” We won’t pull a full spoiler here, just leaving you with a small sampling of things that make Amy not just joyful, but more accessible to her fans, like: “My toddler niece laughing or doing pretty much anything.” “Riding a horse.” “Hearing my brother Jason play his horn.” “Scones.” “Smoked salmon.” “Telling a new joke that I’m excited about onstage, even if it doesn’t do well,” because “telling a new joke never gets old.”

  • Jeff Somers 5:00 pm on 2016/07/08 Permalink
    Tags: , Humor, it gets worse, no filter, shande dawson   

    4 Moments from It Gets Worse That Prove Shane Dawson is Hilarious 

    For some, the term “YouTube Star” inspires nothing but confusion. There’s a generational rift between folks who still turn to their televisions for entertainment and the kids who spend their time watching YouTube videos, or Twitch, or endless six-second Vines.

    Shane Dawson is, in a lot of ways, the poster boy for YouTube fame. He digital channels have nearly 17 million subscribers, his videos have been viewed a collective 3 billion times, and he dominates social media. Yet offline, and outside of his decidedly young fanbase, it’s even money whether he’d be recognized in public. And his public persona has been controversial: Dawson’s videos and other projects often center on very dark material, including suicide, eating disorders, and self-loathing—all spiced with fart jokes, vomit jokes, and scatalogical humor.

    With his second collection of essays, It Gets Worse, Dawson firmly establishes that whether or not you “get” his humor is a matter of taste, because the man can definitely write funny. Here are four moments from the book that prove Dawson may be new school, but he has old-school chops.

    The first line
    In his introduction—literally the first line—Dawson writes, “I’m here to tell you that it gets worse. It really does. The problems you have as a kid will seem ridiculous when you get older because bigger and worse problems will come along.” While that’s not a funny line in and of itself (though the twisting of the “It Gets Better” movement is blackly comic), it sets the tone: throughout the book, Dawson repeatedly uses his past humiliations as an overweight kid from a poor, divorced family as grist for the humor mill. The message is simple: no matter how awful you think your life is when you’re a kid, it all gets funnier the further away from it you get.

    The wig
    Dawson is fearless in these essays, mining his own most embarrassing moments for comedy gold. While full disclosure might seem like the order of the day for the younger generation, Dawson is an expert at unexpectedly mixing the serious with the hilarious (and often profane). The tale of an unrequited crush on a fellow YouTube star follows a familiar path of mixed signals and jangly nerves until we get to this exchange:

    Shane: Hey, I want to talk to you about something.
    YouTube Girl: Is this about my little sister asking if you wear a wig? It’s not your fault. It just looks kinda fake sometimes.

    Dawson dives headlong into the moment when he revealed his feelings and got shot down. This mixture of drama and honest emotion with off-the-wall humor keeps you on your toes and amplifies the impact of the jokes.

    The burrito
    Dawson’s essays are frequently intense. He came out as bisexual last year, and addresses that part of his life—something he was aware of as far back as kindergarten—as well as other struggles, including a lengthy bout with bulimia. He’s not shy about admitting he was an overweight kid, and frequently makes plenty of jokes at his own expense. In the essay “Word Vomit,” he discusses his eating disorder with the same mix of heart-stopping emotion and irony, as when he’s irritated that his girlfriend won’t fall asleep so he can sneak out to binge and purge:

    “As I lay down next to her, she wrapped her arms around me. It was romantic and sweet, but all I could think of was, “GET YOUR F****NG ARMS OFF ME I HAVE A 5-POUND BURRITO TO EAT!”

    There is a bravery to the way Dawson reveals his problems, then mines them for humor—anyone who has struggled with their own demons will see themselves in his hilarious screeds.

    Human trash
    Dawson also addresses something few celebrities in any medium ever do: criticism. Not just the erudite criticism of a film review, but the harsh, sometimes downright violent, reactions people have toward anyone who puts their inner life up on a screen for entertainment value. He touches on the overwhelmingly negative reaction to his first film, Not Cool, by reflecting on the audience reactions to a student film he made for a school project. His teacher had an extremely negative reaction—but his principal, when called on to weigh in, loved the film. Dawson notes that while he has literally been referred to as “human trash” online, enough people find his work funny to make it all worthwhile.

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