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Best of the 12.22-29.08 Issue: It's Funny Because It's Fact

Filed under: Pick of the Issue   Tagged: , , , , , ,

Jonathan writes:

I believe Benjamin Chambers will be here soon with an authoritative Katharine Wheel survey of the year-end Fiction Issue. (I'd say, if you haven't yet managed to read any Roberto Bolaño, his "Meeting With Enrique Lihn" is online; as they say, the first one's free.)

My other personal pick is Zadie Smith's nimble Personal History piece, "Dead Man Laughing." I think it means something that the word "humor" appears much less frequently than "funny," "joke," or "comedy." Humor can be mistaken for undemanding bonhomie (what's more depressing than the Humor section of a bookstore?), but the latter connote the concrete, intellectual and absurd aspects of the comic that thrive on the edge of the abyss. Such was the sensibility expounded with dour glee by Smith's father, Harvey; and she doesn't just recall it, she shows us what life looks like seen through it. (Must look for that "Fawlty Towers" DVD-extra interview of Prunella Scales.)


Zadie Smith went on The New Yorker Out Loud to talk about the piece and her (and her family’s) sense of humor, and she’s great, as always. Have Zadie Smith on more often, TNYOL! (Hey, that almost spells “Tylenol.” Good for what ails you, I agree.)

I agree with your pick, but another highlight of the issue was Lizzie Widdicombe’s Talk of the Town piece, Retrial, in which legal scholars retry Shylock.

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