A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore

An amazing achievement. Moore’s┬ánovel deals head-on with the tragedy and emotional wreckage of losing someone you love, but doesn’t pull its comedic punches either. You end up with a book that’s perfectly willing to poke fun of the lead character one minute, then show the empathy resulting from his experience of tragedy the next.

Oh, and did I mention Moore does it while keeping the writing so smooth its frictionless, juggling multiple points of view, and occasionally just stopping the action to give background on the psychology of the main character?

Forget amazing. It’s intimidating.

Three things I gleaned from this one:

  • You can get away with dropping a lot of background info on the reader if it’s: a) humorous and entertaining, b) about one of the main characters, c) dropped in after the reader’s already emotionally invested in that character
  • Placing a tragedy at the heart of a comedy gives it an emotional weight that strengthens both
  • You can setup multiple POV later in a novel by swapping out from the main character for short bursts in the beginning, then gradually lengthening the time away from the main POV character as you go. By the time you get to the longer passages later in the book, your readers won’t have any problems switching and keeping track of them all.

Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Very hard to characterize or sum up in any way. She’s stuffed it with essays, stories from her life growing up and working in comedy, commentary on social issues, real photos and fake letters.

It’s top to bottom fantastic, but let me try to pull out three of my favorite parts:

  • Her chapter on getting older and the superpowers you acquire made me look forward to turning 40.
  • Her detailing of the lifetime of work it took to get to where she is – that it takes for anyone to “make it” in show business – made me want to be even more supportive to the friends I have that are trying to build that body of work as sketch comedians or screenplay writers.
  • Her “heart” and “brain” apology letters made me hear exactly how insincere I sound when I try to apologize to, but still win an argument with, my wife. I need to give up thoughts of winning and be vulnerable enough to be truly sorry.

Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life by Steve Martin

Oddly inspiring. Martin doesn’t seem to take any joy in this retelling, which only covers his years as a stand-up comic. He seems to look back on his early performing days not with nostalgia, but with a wonder that he persisted so long in doing such poor material.

But it’s that story of persistence that makes the book inspiring, of the decades of work behind his overnight success.

Three things I learned about Martin:

  • He worked at performing for 18 years (!) before becoming a success
  • Had a long stint writing for TV. While many people would consider that a career, and good enough, for Martin it was just a way to pay the bills while he worked on his act.
  • He grew up in Orange County, California, and got his early stage experience at theme parks: Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm

Flash Fiction Friday: Oct 10, 2014

Three more three-sentence flash fiction stories, this time in the genres of Comedy, Romance, and Mystery.

Comedy

The CEO droned on and on about how well he’d been listening to his employees’ concerns. By the end of the meeting, the Board had hit on a plan to address the biggest complaint.The next Monday, half of the employees got pink slips, the other half got cards that said “Congratulations! We’ve doubled the size of your cubicle!”

Romance

Her smile pulled at his heart, his laugh put her at ease. Their hands met while watching fireworks on the Fourth of July, their fingers entwined, a knot holding them together. By the time they whispered “I love you” it was no longer needed: every glance, every touch, every kiss already said it.

Mystery

Detective Yarborough threw the typed pages down in despair: three people, three confessions, none of which matched up to the evidence. The wife was out of town when the vic was killed, the maid was locked out after 10pm and the business partner had never raised a hand in anger in his life. Yarborough put the pieces together in his mind – no body for an autopsy, a large life insurance policy, three killers that could never be convicted – and booked all three as accessories to insurance fraud: helping a guy fake his own death was still a crime.

Cranky Old Man talks about the new Apple Watch

“It tracks your exercise!”
“I don’t need a watch to tell me when I’ve gotten exercise. I’m well aware when it’s happening, because I’m the one doing it!”

“It keeps accurate time!”
“So does my alarm clock, my computer, my phone, and my car. When do I not have a clock staring me in the face, counting down my final hours?”

“Friends lets you send a message with a single touch!”
“All my friends are dead.”

“It gets your attention with a tap! Isn’t that cute?”
“A tap? From that whopper? It’d break my wrist!”

“You can dictate messages to it!”
“Sure, if you enunciate like a British MP. That’s all I need, to spend my day, sitting on a park bench, cursing at my wrist.”

“You can read email on it!”
“Maybe YOU can. With the fonts I use, it’d only display one word at a time!”

“You can send sketches to people!”
“Right. Just what the world needs, more shaky doodles from my arthritic hands.”

“It can record your heartbeat!”
“Now that might be useful. Can it send it to a doctor, or – no? Baldurdash.”

“You can use it to pay for things!”
“Like I couldn’t do it before? Listen, sonny, cash is still accepted everywhere.”