Friday, December 08, 2006

The Deer on a Bicycle: A Book Review



Patrick McManus, The Deer on a Bicycle: Excursions into the Writing of Humor (Spokane: Eastern Washington University Press, 1997)
To atone for all my sins committed in high school and college English classes, I try to read at least one book a year on the subject of writing. Knowing I couldn’t fathom another serious book on the subject, I picked up a copy of Patrick McManus’ guide to writing humor. I’ve read some of his other books and always get a chuckle out of them and was shocked to see that he had a book published by a university press! McManus is the type of author you want to keep on your nightstand. You can read a story or two before sleep and have hilarious dreams. He was also once a college English professor.
There are two parts to this book, the first being the “how to” section, the second being a collection of some of his best writings with his comments on how each piece came about and what he was attempting to do.

“The basic purpose of the article was to amuse and entertain, not inform,” McManus admits following his piece “Wild Life in a Room with a View.” McManus claims (if you can trust a humorist) this to be his last “straight piece” before going strictly to humor. This truism goes for the entire book. Reading the book, I was humored. I laughed; sometimes I laughed hard enough to cry. The other night I was reading it while lying in my daughter’s bed so that she would go to sleep. I should have gotten up when I heard the first little snore, but the story was too interesting that I kept reading and when I got to the punch line, I laughed so hard she woke up thinking something was wrong and I had to find a more serious book to read while she tried to go back to sleep.

This book inspired my recent post about my 7th Grade Math teacher. Depending on whether or not you liked that story may say something about whether or not you’d want to read this book. I recommend it because I recommend anything that McManus writes, not because I think it’s going to help make us better comics. Another book that I found had a lot of helpful hints on humor, believe it or not, was Stephen King’s book, On Writing.

17 comments:

  1. I LOVED that entry of yours but I doubt the reason why I loved it would lead me to liking the book unless it's about shocking a reader by talking about a stiffy which the deer on the bike has (but then that could be more disturbing than reading about a 13 year old boy's).
    :-D

    I know, I know...thin ice...and it's my fault that you'll never write another entry like that again but it's rare that you of all people can make me speechless.

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  2. I have read Stephen King's book on writing and really enjoyed it. I've always thought that someday I would like to give writing a try. I would do it now buy my creative juices flow best in the morning when I am at work and busy. In the evening when I have time to write, my brain is effectively shut down for the day. Life is backwards sometimes.

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  3. I've added this book to my must-read list, thanks to you.

    There's something about really great 7th grade teachers: they have the power to inspire a student to seek lifelong growth. Mine sure did.

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  4. Hi Sage, I think I have commented here before that McManus is one of my favorite authors.

    Thanks for the review. I was not aware that this book existed. This is definitely going on to my MUST HAVE list.

    ks

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  5. Murf, wait till I write about my 9th grade math/algebra teacher. I'll have to finish that one for after it will come the post about my longest Christmas vacation ever--which had something to do with this same teacher--and now that I've chubbed the waters...

    Ed, I know what you mean, it would be nice to be able to quit the day job and just write... or do stuff and then write about it...

    Carmi, there's something about 7th grade boys, glad I only experienced it once.

    Kevin, you other reading sounds too much like grad school, glad you like McManus.

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  6. I'll have to check out the book. It sounds entertaining.

    Cheers from Michele's

    Shane

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  7. a good recommendation...i must add it to my "to buy list"... iread your 7th grade teacher post and i like the way you decribed the story and how it moved really well.

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  8. My must read list is too long already, but I will look for this one.

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  9. It sounds like a great book. Do you make it a goal to read something like a book a week? You seem to post quite a few book reviews on your blog. :)

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  10. I hope you all are planning on reading the book to be amused--which McManus does--instead of learning about the writing of humor, a talent that I'm not sure can be taught.

    Tim, I generally am reading 2-3 books at a time (plus and audio book). I don't try to read one a week, but do generally average about four a month. I don't write book reviews for all the books I read

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  11. I've not heard of the book you feature, but will check it out. As I started to read the post I was thinking of the Stephen King book and then you mention it as well.

    Great to get insipration and always easier to learn whilst having a smile!

    Here today via Michele!

    rashbre

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  12. Well I love the cover!

    Sometimes you do just want a fun book on the nightstand to make you chuckle before bedtime....I will have to pick this up and look through it to see if I would like it.

    Thanks for the review!

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  13. A few years ago I read a book on writing by Lawrence Block which was pretty good also. I've not seen this one by McManus.

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  14. LOVE Patrick Mcmanus. In fact, my husband and I have this very book and have enjoyed it to the utmost!

    Hilarious!!!!!!!

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  15. LOVE Patrick Mcmanus. In fact, my husband and I have this very book and have enjoyed it to the utmost!

    Hilarious!!!!!!!

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