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Treasury of Great Humor by Al Sarrantonio

Treasury of Great Humor

by Al Sarrantonio

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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0517181509, Hardcover)

Anthologizing humor can be an awfully hard job. As a result, good collections are hard to find, and they usually disappear at great speed. Happily, Al Sarrantonio has done the near impossible with his Treasury of Great Humor--not only is every piece funny, but there is also an excellent range of styles and eras in the book. This makes it particularly useful for humor lovers looking around for new authors, but unwilling to take the plunge on an entire book.

Mark Twain and Ambrose Bierce carry the banner of early American humor--or as early as practicable: anyone who enjoys pre-Twain American humor is either a grad student or distantly related to the author being read. Then, Sarrantonio dips into the Golden Age and comes up with Benchley, Thurber, Parker, Perelman and Mencken--you can hardly go wrong with such a Murderers' Row.

But this book really shines in modern times: not only does the editor show reverence for the little-known (in America) Alan Coren, he also includes representatives of that 1970s earthquake, National Lampoon: Editor Henry Beard (he of the omnipresent parodies) and star-writer Michael O'Donoghue. Even our oft-neglected reigning champ Ian Frazier finds his way under the editor's big tent. To give you a small idea of the treats in store, here's part of O'Donoghue's "How to Write Good":

Lesson 1: The Grabber

The "grabber" is the initial sentence of a novel or short story designed to jolt the reader out of his complacency and arouse his curiosity, forcing him to press onward. For example: "Chinese vegetables mean more to me than you do, my dear," Charles remarked to his wife, adding injury to insult by lodging a grapefruit knife in her neck.

For an overview of written humor it doesn't get much better than this book. Snap one up, before it goes the way of all humor anthologies--out of print. --Michael Gerber

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:11 -0400)

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