Friday, March 23, 2007

Just Read: Love Trouble Is My Business by Veronica Geng

This was deeply disappointing, and only the fact that it was so short (166 pages) got me to the end at all. It collects twenty-four short "humor" pieces, mostly from The New Yorker, all from the mid-80s (the book is from 1988), with afterwords about how and why they were written.

And every single essay/story is so clotted, so obsessed with itself and its own self-referentiality, that there's no air in the whole damn thing.

There's a style of New Yorker humor -- S.J. Perelman was the master of it -- in which two very disparate things are linked for humorous effect (often via newspaper clippings reprinted at the beginning of the piece). Geng wrote that kind of piece (I found out, via a fit of synchronicity and last week's Publisher's Weekly, that she died in 1997), and I can only hope that they were funny at the time and only seem flat and lifeless due to lack of cultural context. (Though, several times, it's not clear what the two things are until her afterword, which, as you know Bob, is a major handicap for humor.)

Some of the afterwords seem even to be written in a foreign language, as Geng resolutely refuses to explain any of her references or allow light into her narrow Upper-West-Side mindset. If you happen to be a left-wing Mets fan living in New York in 1988, read this book. Otherwise, forget it. (Luckily, it was cheap -- less than five bucks, even with shipping. But it was a big disappointment for a book I was looking for for several years...and now I sympathize with Sharyn November's recent snarky comments about New Yorker humor.)

1 comment:

sdn said...

i did a double-take when i saw my name.

wasn't that piece hilarious, though?

"i had a lot of wine, and now i'm crazy!"

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