You can empathize with that

free for allIt’s a comfort to read about the daily struggles of your counterpart in another setting. For some, this can serve as occupational therapy. For others, just the pleasure in knowing some scenarios are identical no matter where you go. The social mores of your fellow working-class schlub can lead to a-ha moments of “I know that guy, save for a different name, age, and shirt.” This is the case with mandatory viewing like NBC’s the Office television program, or 1999 cult film Office Space.

That was my impression of Free for All: Oddballs, Geeks, and Gangstas in the Public Library by Don Borchert. Some of the shocking tales of this Los Angeles Public Library clerk, you’ll be surprised to know, might trump even the mighty DPL’s offerings.

Are there any tales or films about the everyman that resonate with you?

Are You a Public Radio Groupie?

nprHave you ever been in the car and bored by what’s currently on the radio? Pop in one of these best-of-the-best NPR audiobooks and transport yourself to a laugh-out-loud Scott Simon interview with Dame Edna to a story about misunderstood song lyrics.

If you’re a fan of NPR, you’ll love books-on-cd that public radio staff have produced. Compilations such as Driveway Moments, Road Trips and Holiday Favorites are hodge-podges of previous stories.

If you like Baxter Black, Rob Gifford, Bill Harley or Susan Stamberg, you’ll be glad to have them handy on a long trip or if you’re stuck on one of the bridges for hours on end. (David Sedaris got his start at NPR and is in a class by himself).

Some, like This I Believe, can be downloaded to your MP3 player. If you’re a Davenport Public Library cardholder you can access our WILBOR audiobooks via our website.

The library’s mission – you will never be bored again.

I Hate Your Guts by Jim Norton

nortonAs a follow up to His #4 New York Times Bestseller Happy Endings, Jim Norton’s latest, I Hate Your Guts, takes the caustic comedian/radio host’s comedy to a simpler and deadly accurate level.   Norton levels the barrels at various public figures with the kind of invective that would make most people blush. Look out Hillary Clinton, Keith Olbermann, Jesse Jackson and Derek Jeter!

If this were a film it would be about two off-ramps past rated R.  Each victim gets rended limb from limb with a several-page salvo of crushing analysis/insults.  Part of you feels badly for them, but when he’s done, you’re pretty sure they must deserve it.

On Display – Poetry

Roses are Red, Violets are Blue

April is National Poetry Month too!

Okay, okay — this little rhyme won’t win a Pulitzer prize.  But maybe, just maybe, it’ll get you to come into the library and check out a book of poetry; you might just find some old favorites you’ve forgotten and discover some new ones along the way.

kickThe children’s collection has some beautiful books — often illustrating just one poem, so they’re very appealling to both young and old alike. Try Shel Silverstein’s classic A Light in the Attic, filled with whimsical, playful, clever (and very funny) word play, or Paul Janecsko’s A Kick in the Head, a delightful, laugh-out-loud introduction to poetry forms.  Both will have you bouncin’ to the beat!

spoon-river

And, if you’ve never read Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters, what better time than now?  Set in a fictional Midwestern village in central Illinois along the Spoon River (which isn’t all that far from here), it tells the stories of “the dead sleeping on the hill” who awaken and tell the truth about their lives. Although written in 1915, the themes are universal and heartfelt.

If you don’t find something on the display shelf, just check out the 811’s for a treasure chest of American poetry.

Dr. Horrible’s Sing-along Blog on DVD

s-singalong-blogConceived, written and filmed during the 2008 writer’s strike, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-along Blog is a musical unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Originally available for free online, it’s now on DVD with additional (hilarious) commentary and making-of mini-documentaries.

The story is simple, yet devious. Mild-mannered Billy (played by Neil Patrick Harris) is actually Dr Horrible (“I have a PhD in Horrible”), bad-guy-in-training. He desperately wants to join the Evil League of Evil (led by Bad Horse who is – a horse) but his every evil attempt is foiled by his nemisis, Captain Hammer (played to the full, cheesy hilt by Nathan Fillion) Billy/Dr Horrible sings of his love for Penny (Felicia Day), the girl at the laundromat he is too shy to talk to then watches in horror as Captain Hammer claims her for himself. How far will Dr Horrible go to be admitted to the Evil League of Evil? Will he ever defeat Captain Hammer? Can he ever tell Penny his true feelings?

The brainchild of Joss Whedon (creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly), the lyrics and dialogue are smart and funny, the singing and acting are terrific and the world-view delightfully skewed. If you’re a fan of Buffy or Flight of the Conchords or Sweeney Todd, you’ll find a lot to like in this musical.

The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club by Gil McNeil

beach-street-knitting-societyFeeling a little bit like an English version of Jan Karon’s Mitford series (charming setting, eccentric characters, quirky stories about everyday life) The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club by Gil McNeil is a fun read, perfect for a lazy afternoon.

Jo Mackenzie’s husband manages to get himself killed in a car accident just a few minutes after telling her that he wanted a divorce, forcing Jo to pack up her life and her two boys and start over. They leave London to take over her Grandmother’s knitting shop in the seaside town of Broadgate Bay. There they encounter overly friendly dogs, resistance to change and a run-down house and shop.  Jo’s best friend Ellen, a famous newscaster in London, keeps things from getting too sweet with her sarcastic observations, and a chance encounter with a celebrity adds some glamor. Jo and her boys soon find themselves part of a circle of friends and neighbors that are always willing to help and a new life that is interesting and satisfying.

Knitting fans will recognize the characters that frequent the yarn shop and take part in the new knitting group Jo forms. The dialogue is sharp and witty and Anglophiles will appreciate the many British references (Tesco, Marks and Spencer, Liberty, etc) and the British slang. This is the first title of a projected series (the second in the series has already been published in England) so watch for more of these charming and funny stories.

April Fool’s! — Humor on Display

binder-twine3Did you know that April is National Humor Month?  What better way to start it off than with an April Fool’s joke!  Tickle your funny bone and find some easy April Fools joke ideas in the current issue of Martha Stewart’s Living magazine.

If you’re a fool for fun, or just want a good LOL (laugh out loud) book, check out some of these authors: Erma Bombeck, Dave Barry or Steven Colbert.  Plus, we also have joke books and cartoons (such as Garfield) and sound recordings of several comedians,  so you have lots of options.

Here’s a favorite of mine by a local author, D.D. Dunn — it’s called Binder Twine ‘n Bandaids: Homegrown Humor from the Heartland. Her “Pretty as a Picture” describes the ordeal many of us may remember in getting ready for the all-important annual school photo.  I don’t think they offered re-takes in those days, either!  Her “First Date” story is hilarious, too! Have fun reading!

Funny in Farsi by Firoozeh Dumas

I’m reading the funniest book! It’s called Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America by Firoozeh Dumas. I picked it up at the last Women’s Connection (TWC) meeting, but the library does have copies at both buildings. Dumas, an Iranian-American, is the featured speaker at the November 5 TWC meeting, when the group traditionally hosts an international author. If you can go, do — but be prepared for some belly laughs!

This book is laugh-out-loud funny. There’s one scene in particular, in which the author describes a time she is waiting in a crowded medical clinic, when the receptionist mispronounces her name. Badly mispronounces it! Now with a first name like “Firoozeh,” you would probably expect some of this, but in this case, both her first and last name (her husband is French) are really butchered.

The author freely admits that her first experience in the United States, at the tender age of seven, was a very favorable one, and that people were very kind to her and her family. She’s quick to note, however, that this was before the hostage takeover of the embassy in Iran, and that later Iranian immigrants often faced open hostility.

There are lots of anecdotes that many can identify with — her father attempting to teach her how to swim, her not-so-fun experience at summer camp, and the seemingly endless supply of relatives coming to visit. More importantly, though, this book goes a long way in gently educating us Americans that Iranians are human, too. Not to mention funny.

Dumas has also written Laughing Without an Accent: Adventures of an Iranian American at Home and Abroad. Enjoy!


A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

The Appalacian Trail (AT), a continuous hiking trail spanning the eastern United States from Georgia to Maine, has been the source of many adventures and stories but by far the funniest (and arguably the best) is A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson.

Bryson, middle-aged and overweight, decides to reconnect with nature and America by hiking the often arduous AT. He recruits long-time friend Stephen Katz who is even less athletic than Bryson (he packs for the hike by filling his backpack with candy bars – and nothing else) and sets off optimistically. What ensues is both laugh-out-loud funny and thoughtful, beautiful and provocative. Although the pair end up hiking only parts of the trail (the beginning and the end plus several day hikes in the central section), their experience is no less authentic than those of a thru-hiker.

Along the way Bryson (one of our best writers) fills you in on the history and lore of the trial, the varied accounts of the towns scattered along its length, the unique and beautiful landscape and wildlife of the areas crossed (although the chapter on bears is likely to keep you awake at night whether you’re in a tent or at home), insights into human nature and the value of keeping your friends – even those that drive you nuts.

But most of all, you’ll laugh. A lot.