Sunday, August 22, 2010

Book-A-Day 2010 # 200 (8/22) -- Free-Range Chickens by Simon Rich

Just a brief note to lead off today's entry: with this book, I've now run the 2010 Book-A-Day for as long as the 2006-2007 Book-A-Day. But Book-A-Day 2010 will continue, I hope, for a full year and end on February 3, 2011. (Oddly enough, the first run of Book-A-Day ended on February 1, 2007, so the second run began exactly three years and three days later -- though I hadn't realized that until now. How curious.)

Simon Rich is not afraid to be funny, and he's not afraid to be short -- two things that greatly endear him (or his writing, I should say -- I've never met the man and don't expect to) to me. Free-Range Chickens is his second collection of humorous pieces -- after Ant Farm -- and it's the size of a modern poetry collection (129 pages), with a similar number of separate bits (54 of them). (By the way, I ran across Ant Farm randomly two years ago and loved it, which is why I was so happy to see Chickens.)

Those bits are smart enough and funny enough and precise enough -- they are, actually, not unlike poetry, in that they get in and out of their situations with the minimum of words to create the maximum effect -- that I can forgive Rich for being ridiculously young; he was born when I was in high school (which I have to insist was not that long ago). Either because of his own youth or because he writes for Mad magazine -- the bits in Chickens were probably published somewhere first, at least some of them, but there's no indication of what or where or when -- a lot of those bits are about kids and childhood, though from a jaundiced perspective. Rich's titles almost give away his jokes a lot of the time -- bits are titled things like "If adults were subjected to the same indignities as children" and "How my mother imagined the police" -- but he does always manage to punch the joke more strongly than the title promises.

So: Free-Range Chickens is a short book of very funny stuff, by a writer I have to call up-and-coming, since it would pain me to call a man fully arrived when it looks like he hasn't started shaving yet. But Simon Rich is very funny, and there are now two books of his stuff to enjoy.
Book-A-Day 2010: The Epic Index

No comments:

Post a Comment