Happen you to need a diversion, check out The McSweeney’s Joke Book of Book Jokes, why not? It’s new, it’s got about 70 stories (or entries, more properly), it has a picture of a chicken smoking a cigarette on the cover, and if you’re not overwhelmed by the end, it even comes with a story I contributed about Borges. Come on, people’ve been griping for years about the dearth of Borges jokes. It’s time. It’s here. Admittedly, I would consider the contribution more melancholy than funny. More of a meditation or lament. About Borges. From his time in the Cub Scouts. He made it to Webelo. Jeffrey Lyons calls it the best story he’s ever seen.
Here’s the lead to the Borges quip:
I joined the cub scouts to find the sound of color. Our adventures were palimpsests, the light across my yellow scarf, the yellow scarf across my starved soul, each marking over the other. Plus, there were Gameboys. We put in our time, Troop 63, earning our badges. Bobcat, check. Bear, check. Wolf, check. Mr. Wilkerson was our den leader. He was far more, this noble gatekeeper.
Soon, I crossed the bridge below the clouded arc near the flow by the waters of cavernous time. I began my path towards the Webelo. Left at Tlon, straight past the Chuck E. Cheese on Telegraph, then right at Uqbar.
Oh, and it goes on. (Ha — I coincidentally find now, this very day, another version of riffing on Borges over at the McSwny website.)
Most reviews of the whole book seem to pick up on John Moe’s “Winnie the Pooh is My Co-worker” (originally here). It’s top shelf. (By the way, the majority of the stories in the book, though not all, were first published at the website — “Borges was a Webelo,” for example, sees the light of day for the first time here).
Samples you want? Okay, a couple from Winnie-the-Pooh:
Maureen brought the new guy around who’s going to be working in our group. After the Jason fiasco, we really could use someone with a little bit of a brain who can keep up on things. This guy’s named Winnie and, I don’t know, I just have a bad feeling.
I gave Winnie this file of research material on Crawford & Horowitz, because I thought he might want to read up on it before the group meeting tomorrow. I’m doing him a favor, right? So I go to get it back from him after lunch and find Winnie sitting on the floor, his hand in a honey jar, and all this paperwork, including the file I need, smeared with thick honey. It’s unusable now. I might as well throw it away. Trying not to just go off on the bear, I asked him what the hell happened. He looked all confused and mumbled something about needing “a little post-lunch snack.” Jesus. Have a freakin’ apple, dude.
Then there’s something like “Social Security Denies Gregor Samsa’s Disability Claim” (originally here). Let’s keep the free samples rolling:
We are writing about GREGOR SAMSA’s claim for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments. Based on a review of his/her medical condition, he/she does not qualify for SSI payments on this claim. This is because he/she is not disabled or blind under our rules.
The following report(s) were used to decide this claim:
You did not show up for your Consultative Exam. We scheduled an appointment with an examining physician at our expense. You were asked if you required a taxi or other arranged transportation to the exam.
We received no medical records related to your alleged condition(s) of I AM A GIGANTIC COCKROACH, DEPRESSION, BACK PAIN.
Annnnd, we might as well round out the preview with some James Joyce. Here are some selections from my favorite contribution to the entire book, “Feedback from James Joyce’s Submission of Ulysses to his Creative-Writing Workshop” (originally here):
“Snotgreen” = hyphenated.
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Show us how these characters process memory, language, abstractions, and the urban landscape through stream of consciousness, don’t just tell us.
Think you accidentally stapled in something from your playwriting workshop for Ch. 15.
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The voice reminds me of the story “Which Is More Than I Can Say About Some People” from Lorrie Moore’s Birds of America. Read it?
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“History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.” So true.
Okay. Okay. Carry on.