SUGGESTED READING, SUMMER 2004The Robert Benchley Society announces its "top ten" list of short humorous summertime readings. Following each entry is a brief description and a quotation from the piece. Enjoy!
|(1) "Political Parties and Their Growth," Robert Benchley|
While at the beach avoiding the Democratic National
Convention in Boston (the near occasion of sin) and the Republican
National Convention in New York (no worse than a bad head cold), you might
bone up on American political parties with this classic Benchley essay.
(2) "See the USA First! (While We Still Own Part of It)"
from Dave Barry's Only Travel Guide You'll Ever Need, Dave Barry
If you're traveling this summer, be sure to slip this slim volume into your
carry-on or beach bag. In his inimitable and outrageous
(Benchley-influenced) style, Barry provides vital information (Ohio's
Official State Literary Device is the metaphor ) and rules of travel
("Never go outside the hotel") on everything from traveling with teenagers
to having fun with airport security personnel.
(3) "But the One on the Right," Dorothy Parker
Born August 22, 1893 and died June 7, 1967, Mrs. Parker entered and exited this world in the summer. In between she
suffered fools (not gladly) and many a disappointing partner --dinner and otherwise.
(4) "Vacations" from Mr. Dooley Says, Finley Peter Dunne
While not so highly regarded today, dialect has an ancient pedigree in
English literature from Shakespeare to Dickens. Here's America's own contribution
to comedic dialect -- Mr. Dooley.
(5) "Our Mrs. Parker" from While Rome Burns, Alexander Woollcott
Okay, we admit it, this selection has no connection to summer. But when a RBS member
suggested it, we just knew we had to include it. Those who know their Scriptures will
laugh out loud about Mrs. Parker's canary, named Onan.
(6) Rhubarb, H. Allen Smith
With this entry we break our own rule by listing a full-length book, rather
than a short essay; but this piece of classic American humor, about a cat that inherited a
professional baseball team, is too good to pass up. Besides, the early chapters
can stand alone and are good reading aloud.
(7) "Ludlow Kissel and the Dago Bomb That Struck Back," Jean Shepherd
If you're a kid growing up in Northern Indiana during the Depression,
summer is the best time of year, the Fourth of July is the pinnacle of
summer, and fireworks (Roman candles, pinwheels, cherry bombs and, yes, Dago
bombs) are the high point of the holiday.
(8) "The Fable of How the Fool-Killer
Backed Out of a Contract," George Ade
Not so widely read today, but an influence on many later
humorists (including Benchley), George Ade (1866 - 1944) published his
Fables in Slang in 1899. This one captures the simple
pleasure of attending a crowded event on a hot, sticky, dusty summer's day. The fable is
available free on the Mount Royal College, Calgary,
"Gaslight" website of public domain documents.
(9) "If the Impressionists had been Dentists," Woody Allen
Summer holiday is, of course, a time to send postcards to the relatives back home.
On or about July 29, celebrate the 114th anniversary of the death of a most famous
epistler, with this essay, done in the manner of Vincent van Gogh.
(10) "Summer Shirtings," Robert Benchley
One of summer's pleasures is the 'laid back' attitude it brings, even
when it comes to sartorial matters. For our day, this means bare legs,
shorts, and t-shirts. For Benchley's time, this meant soft shirts.
RETURN TO ROBERT BENCHLEY SOCIETY NEWS ARCHIVE