DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!


Mar 18 2016

Tastes Funny

by Dea Anne M

If you read this blog with any regularity, you might assume that I read only thrillers, memoirs and cookbooks. Of course, having just said that, I realize how very flattering to myself I’m being to even imagine that you’d devote a spare moment toward considering my reading habits. In any case,  I am, in fact, a huge fan of humorous writing – both fiction and non. Of course “funny” is subjective but I consistently find myself favoring sly, ironic, often British, writing such as that practiced by H. H. Munro – better known as Saki – and Pelham Grenville Wodehouse – better known as P. G. Wodehouse. I have also enjoyed some of Dorothy Parker’s and Christopher Moore’s writing as well aseducation  the absurdities and antic word plays of James Thurber. But one of the writers I have most enjoyed over the years is someone who is still active today – Calvin Trillin.

Trillin, primarily a print journalist, has worked for Time magazine as well as The Nation and is currently on the staff of The New Yorker. In fact, it was his reporting for the latter on the integration of the University of Georgia that became his first book,   An Education in Georgia: Charlayne Hunter, Hamilton Holmes and the integration of the University of Georgia.  Trillin is also a well-known poet – particularly on the teppersubject of politics. The George W. Bush presidency, in particular, receives his wry treatment in Obliviously On He Sails and A Heckuva Job. More recent poems appear in Dogfight: the 2012 Presidential campaign in verse.  Trillin is also the author of a well-received (and very funny) novel Tepper Isn’t Going Out. As may be apparent, Trillin addresses a wide range of subjects in his writing but the concerns that seem to be closest to his heart are travel, food and family. In fact, it is Trillin’s family stories which are some of the most interesting and emotionally rewarding.

His daughters, Abigail and Sarah, have appeared often in his essays – and still do even though both are adults now with families of their own. Both girls, even raised as they were in the culinary paradise of New York City by parents with adventurous tastes, were apparently extremely picky eaters. Which is perhaps odd…or maybe familynot odd at all.  The young Sarah, for example, always insisted on carrying a bagel with her on family trips to New York “just in case.” Abigail, who sounds like the soul of kindness, was “complimenting me on my Cheerios until she wised up at about the age of three.” Trillin’s Family Man is a delightful meditation on the anxieties and joys of raising children written by a man who clearly – and very happily – has always put his family at the very center of his life. Just as lovely, and to my mind incredibly moving, is his portrait of his wife, Alice Stewart Trillin who died of heart disease on September 11, 2001. About Alice is a wonderful tribute to a woman who he clearly adored and who, from the moment he first met her in 1963, never stopped trying to impress.

It was Trillin’s food writing though that hooked me first, most specifically, the so-called Tummy Trilogy – which consists of the books American Fried, Alice, Let’s Eat and Third Helpings (you can find the first and the third of these at DCPL). Trillin makes it clear that he isn’t much of a cook saying that, in the kitchen, he is “more of an idea man.” Still his culinary writing reveals the open mind, liberal taste buds and zestful approach to living that signify a gourmet of the best sort. Some of Trillin’s funniest quotes come from these books, for example:

(on revolving dining palaces situated at the top of tall buildings) “I never eat in a restaurant that’s over a hundred feet off the ground and won’t stand still.”

(on his mother’s cooking) “The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found.”

(speaking as a proud Mid-Western son about his native city) “The best restaurants in the world are, of course, in Kansas City.”

(on the hazards of venturing an opinion about what actually constitutes chili) “I like chili, but not enough to discuss it with yensomeone from Texas.”

You can find more of Trillin’s very amusing culinary essays in Feeding a Yen: savoring local specialities from Kansas City to Cuzco. For a worthwhile general sampling of his writing, check out Quite Enough of Calvin Trillin; forty years of funny stuff.

How about you? Are you a fan of humorous writing and, if so, who do you recommend that I read next?








Mar 1 2013

Comic Relief

by Veronica W

Every Sunday  afternoon I get a newspaper and settle down for my usual ritual. I pull out all of the ads and coupons and set them aside for later perusal. I then pull out the sections in which I have no interest, foremost being the Sports section.  After that I neatly stack my favorites, World News, Metro, Living etc.  Then begins the hunt for the comics, which I set aside in a spot of their own.They will be the last thing I read; kind of like dessert.

The comics – or “funnies” – are considered by some to be lowbrow humor, not worthy of serious thought or consideration. However I have found that some of life’s most truthful and relevant realities are pinpointed in the strips. Listen to Lucy van Pelt (my favorite diva) from Peanuts, who asks, “What shape would the world be in today if everyone settled for being average?”  If you want to hear more from Charlie Brown and his gang, check out Peanuts: A Golden Celebration.

Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert,  speaks to those of us who get up every morning and spend a good bit of time in the marketplace. His take on life in the corporate world is both hilarious and frequently on target.  On your “grin and bear it ” days, pick up Dilbert’s Guide to the Rest of Your Life: Dispatches From Cubicleland, for a good laugh. If you need a quick fix,  here you are.

dilbert best

The great thing about comics is that they speak to every age, interest and situation.  As my marriage aged, so did my understanding of that battling couple, the Lockhorns.  In his exaggeration of marital struggles, John Reiner portrayed what life is like sometimes after you say “I do.”  If  truth is in wine, it’s often in humor as well.


Get Fuzzy and Pearls Before Swine are comic strips for our times. Their edgy, occasionally dark and sometimes tart humor can be reflective of current values, thoughts and realities.  Those of us who grew up with Nancy, Blondie, Mary Worth, Little LuluPogo, and Popeye—just to name a few—are able to see how humor changes as the culture (and your age) changes.  That which elicits a polite, half-hearted grin from a fifteen year old today may make a senior laugh uproariously.   Which of these do you find amusing?  This one…


or this one…

circ 2

Perhaps in the grand scheme of things, it’s enough that we can laugh.   To paraphrase some wise person, in literature and love (and humor), we are often amazed at what is chosen by others.


Aug 12 2011

ShareReads: Looking for Calvin

by David T

ShareReads appears on the DCPLive blog on Fridays. Each week, a different person will share a little about what they’re currently reading, and why they like or don’t like it. The heart of ShareReads will be responses from blog readers, and the window of opportunity here is wide. Feel free to respond and discuss the book or author being mentioned, ask or answer a question, or even take the conversation in a different direction: mention what you are currently reading, and how you feel about it. The point of ShareReads is to have an ongoing discussion about books and reading. Remember: posting a response also counts as an activity for the Summer Reading for Adults program.

Though it had a comparatively short life on the comics page, ending its original run more than 15 years ago, Calvin and Hobbes still has a tremendous following. As a longtime fan of the strip, I was intrigued by Nevin Martell’s Looking for Calvin and Hobbes: The Unconventional Story of Bill Watterson and His Revolutionary Comic Strip.

C&H creator Bill Watterson is an intensely private man who has succeeded in doing something quite unusual for a famous person in 21st century America – he has largely kept his personal life out of the media. He seldom gives interviews, discourages interest in himself as opposed to his work, and maintains his integrity to a degree for which he has sometimes been criticized. He turned away millions of dollars by refusing to allow his syndicate to license Calvin and Hobbes merchandise, and ended the strip early rather than see it outlive its freshness and originality.

Not surprisingly, Watterson chose not to give his biographer an interview, or otherwise participate in the creation of Martell’s book. That could have been a fatal blow to the book, but it’s not. Martell visited Watterson’s hometown, met people who knew him, including his mother, and interviewed many other cartoonists, most of whom hold Watterson’s work in high esteem. The result is a book that tells those of us who love Calvin and Hobbes a little more about how it came into being, explains why it stands out as something special, and, best of all, encourages us to revisit the strips themselves. In addition to Martell’s book, DCPL has more than a dozen collections of C&H strips; if you haven’t checked them out, you’re in for a treat. Don’t miss the ones in which Calvin shows his own unique uses for libraries and reference librarians!

{ 1 comment }

Jul 20 2011

A Book By Any Other Name…

by Joseph M

When you see a book at the library or bookstore and want to know more about it, do you ever wish you could get beyond the vague summaries and overenthusiastic blurbs on the cover jacket and find out what the story is *really* about? If so, Better Book Titles may be right up your alley. Here’s a description from the website: This blog is for people who do not have thousands of hours to read book reviews or blurbs or first sentences. I will cut through all the cryptic crap, and give you the meat of the story in one condensed image. Now you can read the greatest literary works of all time in mere seconds!

Featured books include classics, modern best-sellers, and children’s books. While I would take issue with a few of the proposed title revisions, I found the majority of entries to be clever and amusing, and hopefully you will too!


Jan 3 2011

Knock Knock

by Veronica W

The Three Stooges.  I couldn’t believe he was laughing uproariously at grown men bopping each other over the head. All I could do was shake my head and walk away. It was the same reaction he had to my very vocal enjoyment of Andy Rooney and The New Yorker magazine’s cartoons. Even when we agreed on a good comedy to watch, we laughed at totally different parts.

To state the already overstated obvious, people are different; their taste in clothes, food, literature, friends…and hee hees is often unlike anyone else’s. Remember when, as a child, you discovered knock knock jokes? “Knock knock.”/ ” Who’s there?” /”Boo.”/ “Boo who?” /”Why are you crying?” You almost fell on the floor laughing, while the adults in your life smiled painfully. How many of your friends and family give that same smile when you attempt to tell a joke or recount something you (and only you) think is hilarious?

Laughter is suppose to be a great stress reliever and in these anxious times, we need to indulge in it whenever we can. The library has an enormous collection of humorous books and movies to suit every taste; definitely too many to name. Here is a sampling but please browse in  the 808s, 814s, 818s and the extensive audio/visual collection if you want more of a selection or these don’t strike your funny bone – wherever that may be anatomically.  In addition, there’s a lot of really funny fiction out there, juvenile and adult.


MOVIES ( Well, they made me laugh!)

What makes you laugh?  Is it dry wit, subtle humor or slapstick? Perhaps you secretly enjoy knock knock jokes. When is the last time you laughed until it hurt? (Ok, me first. It was when Candid Camera was popular. I loved the show.) In the New Year, let’s resolve to find amusement wherever we can. If it’s been a while, let’s see if  my friend below at least makes you chuckle.