Reading Humour (No Smiling Allowed)

The Librarian And Information Science News blog called my attention back to The Onion, which I used to read religiously, but haven’t been back to in a number of years. Once there I found some really hysterical stuff on reading that they’ve put out over the last few years. Some excerpts of the better articles I ran across in just the first fifty or so articles out of about 500 the search engine called up are below. A few laughs for sure, but I’m glad to see that The Onion is still using the laughter for some thoughtful cultural commentary.

Area Eccentric Reads Entire Book
January 19, 2008 | Issue 44•03

GREENWOOD, IN—Sitting in a quiet downtown diner, local hospital administrator Philip Meyer looks as normal and well-adjusted as can be. Yet, there’s more to this 27-year-old than first meets the eye: Meyer has recently finished reading a book.

Even outdoors, Meyer can’t seem to think of anything better to do than flip through some American classic.

Yes, the whole thing.

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Even more bizarre, Meyer is believed to have done most of his reading during his spare time—time when the outwardly healthy and stable resident could have literally been doing anything else, be it aimlessly surfing the Internet, taking a nap, or simply just staring at his bedroom wall.

“It’d be nice to read it again at some point,” Meyer continued, as if that were a perfectly natural thing to say.

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According to behavioral psychologist Dr. Elizabeth Schulz, Meyer’s reading of entire books is abnormal and may be indicative of a more serious obsession with reading.

“Instead of just zoning out during a bus ride or spending hour after hour watching YouTube videos at night, Mr. Meyer, unlike most healthy males, looks to books for gratification,” Schulz said. “Really, it’s a classic case of deviant behavior.”

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As bizarre as it may seem, Meyer isn’t alone. Once a month, he and several other Greenwood residents reportedly gather at night not only to read books all the way through, but also to discuss them at length.

“I don’t know, it’s like this weird ‘book club’ they’re all a part of,” said Brian Cummings, a longtime coworker and friend of Meyer’s. “Seriously, what a bunch of freaks.”:

Comment: I’m glad to see I’m not the only one that recognizes reading is deeply related to deviant psychological profiles. See my post on this very subject.

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Reading-Is-Fundamentalists Slaughter 52 Illiterates
October 29, 1997 | Issue 32•13

ROCKVILLE, MD—Militant pro-literacy terrorists struck here Friday night, as a pipe bomb exploded at Rockville Adult Learning Annex, killing 52 illiterates and injuring dozens more. Hours later, RIF, a radical reading-is-fundamentalist terrorist group, claimed responsibility for the attack.

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According to the group’s 900-page manifesto, RIF is committed to fighting illiteracy by “first-hand targeting of illiterates.” The manifesto also outlines a three-point plan to achieve its goals by “speaking to schoolchildren about the importance of reading, lobbying Congress for increased funding for literacy-awareness programs, and banishing illiterates to the very bowels of Hell.”

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In addition to using terror, RIF has sought to eradicate illiteracy via a series of spots airing on Saturday-morning television, in which a hooded, armed representative of the faction warns children to read “as if your life depends on it—for it does.” The group has also distributed videotapes to over 3,700 U.S. elementary schools featuring footage of abducted illiterates being shot in the back of the head by RIF members, followed by a music video, “Reading Is Where It’s At,” starring the group’s mascot, Pages The Rappin’ Raccoon.

Comment: Little known fact. My blog is a front for the RIF. We’ve merely been in hiding for the past seven years, lulling illiterates into a false sense of security as they descend in to corruption through non-reading. Somewhat like Islamic terrorists who are largely lead by disaffected members of the elite who have been educated in Western societies, RIF is made up of dedicated readers who once worked for Microsoft and Electornic Arts Incorporated , but then found themselves dismayed at the corruption of the technological world around them and longed for a resurrected and glorified literacy. Well known but as yet unidentified members of our group include John Updike, Doris Lessing, Michael Dirda, and many others who keep Barnes and Nobles in business.

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Books Don’t Take You Anywhere
December 16, 1997 | Issue 32•19

WASHINGTON, DC—A study released Monday by the U.S. Department of Education revealed that, contrary to the longtime claims of librarians and teachers, books do not take you anywhere.

“For years, countless educators have asserted that books give readers a chance to journey to exotic, far-off lands and meet strange, exciting new people,” Education Secretary Richard Riley told reporters. “We have found this is simply not the case.”

Comment: As I’ve been saying. PhotoSynth is better anyway.

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Area Man Well-Versed In First Thirds Of Great Literature
April 27, 2005 | Issue 41•17

KANSAS CITY, MO—Malcolm Seward is a 38-year-old commercial kitchen designer, baseball fan, and avid supporter of public radio, but he said there’s nothing he likes better than hunkering down in a comfortable chair, cracking open a brand-new copy of one of the world’s literary classics, and reading the first 100 pages or so.

“Listen, I’m no book snob,” said Seward, settled into his favorite reading chair and running his hand over a nearly half-well-thumbed copy of Pride and Prejudice. “It’s just that I love cracking the binding on a truly good book and reading until I drift off. I’d say it’s something I do two or three times a week.”

Seward, whose bookshelves house over 500 well-regarded and eagerly begun novels, developed his voracious appetite for starting books at a young age.

Comment: Pierre Bayard’s Ideal Reader. See my post on this topic.

Seriously though–who among us does not have to confess that we start or otherwise partially read a great many more books than we actually finish. On my list of books I have not yet finished (and am unlikely ever to do so)

Denis Johnson’s Tree of Smoke–I know it’s supposed to be a masterpiece, but, frankly, after 100 pages, I didn’t care. I’ll wait for the movie.

Anything by Alice Walker since Possessing the Secret of Joy–Does this really need explanation? I’ve even written essays on the woman and can’t bring myself to open her books anymore. The sad fact is that she was a writer worth listening to before she decided it was more important to be a prophet who sounds vaguely like Shirley McLane.

Dostoevsky’s The Idiot–I tried to read this through DailyLit.com. I did. I really truly did. I got tired of trying to find deleted emails that would remind me who these characters were again. I finally decided the characters weren’t worth the effort. I’ll probably try again, both with Dostoevsky and with DailyLit, though not both at the same time.

Toni Morrison’s Jazz–I’m ashamed to admit it, but yes. I’ve started this book at least a dozen times and am bored to tears every single time. Perhaps it’s not her fault. I think Beloved is one of the two or three great novels of the 20th century. Everything since is disappointing even when it’s good. Felt this way about both Paradise and Love. “Good book,” I’d say to myself, “but it’s no Beloved.” Actually, it may be that I finished Jazz at some point. I think I forced myself, but I honestly can’t remember anything about it. In Pierre Bayard’s universe, I may as well not have read it.

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