So it’s been awhile since I’ve graced you with a reading update, and because I’m now pretty behind, I thought it’d be a good idea to get off my butt and write a blog post…pronto!
First, let me mention that these two books weren’t read in succession. I plan on writing an entire post on Pride & Prejudice, which I read inbetween Fierce Pajamas and The Canterville Ghost. The times it took me to read these three said books also varied drastically, from more than a week and a half for Fierce Pajamas, to a mere 3 hours for The Canterville Ghost. I stretched my reading of Pride & Prejudice, just because it’s so awesome, but I’ve been known to read that novel in a day.
But before I entered my Austen obsession, I was reading Fierce Pajamas: A Collection of Humor Writing from The New Yorker. I was reading it…and wishing it would end so that I could get started on Pride & Prejudice. If you couldn’t already tell, New Yorker Editor-in-Chief David Remnick collected about 80 years of humor writing for the Fierce Pajamas anthology, including pieces from the late 1920’s, up until the end of the twentieth century. The authors include both the famous and forgotten, but feature such well-known voices as E.B. White, Woody Allen and John Updike.
Now, I’m not saying the book was bad. How bad could a collection of funny stories from one of my favorite magazines be? Not bad at all, and I found myself laughing outloud at various stories and relating some of the funnier bits to my boyfriend (although it’s hard to repeat jokes from The New Yorker; so much of its humor depends on subtle snobbery). My only problem was how long it was. Now, in the introduction, Remnick advises his readers not to read the collection straight-through. Read a story here and there, enjoy it, come back for more when you’re ready. OK, sounds like a good idea. But did I follow his advice? No. The books I read “every now and then” are Good Poems by Garrison Keillor, or my Intellectual Devotional. They’re not on my reading list. They’re not books that I can “check off” once I’m done. Fierce Pajamas was. I knew I wouldn’t feel right moving on to Jane Austen unless I was completely done with Fierce Pajamas, and so against all Remnick’s good advice, I read the book straight through. Like he probably anticipated, I became bored at times, and a little overwhelmed by all the snobbery, sarcasm, irony and New Yorkish-ness. Now don’t get me wrong, I love The New Yorker. But that was a lot of New Yorker, and all at once.
After finally finishing that one, I moved on to Pride & Prejudice. After vertitably whizzing through Jane Austen, I picked up a much smaller volume than my previous two reads, The Canterville Ghost and Other Stories by Oscar Wilde. I received this book more than a year ago, as a gift from a close friend who spent a summer in France. Knowing how big of a Francophile I am, when she visited Shakespeare & Co. in Paris (the one place I want to visit most in the world), she picked up Wilde’s hilarious ghost story for me. The book is half in French, half in English, which was exciting because it meant I could pull out my rusty French comprehensive skills. Then, when that failed me, I turned to the English half.
Because only the left page was printed in English, the book was even shorter than it appeared. However, short as it was, it was hilarious. Wilde tells the story of a modern, consumeristic American family who moves into an English manor house. They are warned the house is haunted by the ghost of a man who brutally murdered his wife in the sixteenth century, but they brush off the warnings, claiming they’re not scared of ghosts. And they’re not. When a mysterious red spot appears on the drawing room floor–a blood stain!–the son sets to work scrubbing the spot clean with the newest soap powder. When the ghost walks the halls at night, the father greets him amiably enough and offers him some oil so that his chains make less of a racket. The ghost is understandably furious at this treatment–he has scared generations of families out of their wits, and this is how he’s treated? However, all his attempts at frightening the American family are foiled by their indifference, fancy new products from overseas, and a pair of mischeviosu twin boys who insist on leaving traps for him in the night. It’s really too much for a respectable ghost to bear.
I laughed out loud at this story, and it made me miss Oscar Wilde, whom I haven’t read since my senior year in high school. The other two stories in the book were similarly entertaining, but not as hilarious as The Canterville Ghost. Read it: Oscar Wilde may be reminiscent of assigned reading, but if you give him a chance, you’ll find the real reason he’s been entertaining for almost one hundred years.