"It's the birthday of the South African journalist and crime writer
James Howe McClure," said Garrison Keillor--in a voice that makes the
day sound bearable even during a world financial market collapse--on
last Thursday morning's edition of The Writer's Almanac.
Keillor then offered the following, at once pertinent and impertinent, words of wisdom from McClure: "I long, long, long ago thought the finest thing to be is an entertainer, with tons of funny things to say. If people find lots more in my work, that's great, but if they just read and have a good laugh, that's fine for me."
And that's the news from . . . ooops.
Speaking of ooops, I suppose any attempt to include lists of author names and book titles raises the not-so-funny specter of biblio-typos, but nonetheless I do apologize to fans of author Dean (not Stephen) Koontz and actress Frances McDormand (not McDermott) for any confusion last week. The good news, however, is that our fun books to recommend list continues to grow. And not a moment to soon, given the state of the book world as well as the world beyond books.
"When I was a bookseller, there were always a couple of titles that came in handy when asked about a 'fun' read," notes Howard Cohen, marketing and publicity director, Keen Communications/Clerisy Press. "I've been off the sales floor for about eight years now so while my suggestions may be a little dated, they are all still in print and hopefully still on the shelves at your store. If not, I may have to leave the glamorous world of publishing and get back on the floor." Cohen's list includes:
- The Bear Went Over the Mountain by William Kotzwinkle ("A gem. Hal Jam is a character you just won't forget.")
- Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger ("An epistolary novel set in the World War II era that is fast and fun and terribly sweet.")
- The Mammy, The Chisellers and The Granny, all by Brendan O'Carroll. ("Virtually unknown here in the States, O'Carroll is a big name in Irish comedy and these characters started on a radio show that got wildly popular. They translate well to the short novel form and you can read all three of them over a vacation or a long weekend.")
Sarah Bagby of Watermark Books & Café, Wichita, Kan., suggests "a couple of books I recommend over and over for someone wanting to laugh out loud":
- Tepper Isn’t Going Out by Calvin Trillin
- Skipped Parts and other novels by Tim Sandlin
- Norwood by Charles Portis
Her fun recommendation? "For female cozy mystery writers, it's Janet Evanovich and Stephanie Plum--starting with book 2 (I have complaints that book 1 is too violent!)." Laural also works as a marketing associate for Unbridled Books and says that "right this minute, there's a brand-new book called The Wonder Singer by George Rabasa that I find funny." Just moments after her book suggestions reached me, Laural wrote again because, "in a very odd coincidence, after I sent my first e-mail off to you, I received this from my husband via e-mail: 'I also finished The Wonder Singer. It was a fun read.'"
"I had to laugh," Laural added.
And so, whenever possible, do we.