My Planet: Finding Humor in the Oddest Places by Mary Roach

My Planet cover imageMy Planet: Finding Humor in the Oddest Places by Mary Roach, Reader’s Digest Association, ISBN 9781621450719, RRP $27.95, Available now.

Mary Roach is a fantastic author, covering some of the most basic non-fiction subjects in an informative, funny and intelligent way. So I’m happy to read anything that comes my way that she’s written, even if it does come with the words “Reader’s Digest” attached.

It turns out she’s been writing a column for Reader’s Digest and they make quite the enjoyable read (heck, even I write the occasional review column for a paper that publishes this crap). They’re gentle and engender an almost constant desire to laugh loudly and longly*.

There are three kinds of people in this world: 1) People who make lists, 2) People who don’t make lists, and 3) People who carve tiny Nativity scenes out of pecan hulls.

Even the most pointless and short columns have at least one smart and funny moment.

I called the Help woman back, demanding to know how to get rid of the blank stations. She asked if I’d looked in my User’s Guide. I didn’t like where this was heading. If I wanted to read and exercise comprehension skills, I wouldn’t be watching television.

While not having the depth of Bonk or Stiff, My Planet is a highly enjoyable read, one that would be perfect for a lazy Sunday or a quiet holiday.

So Ed and I were eating a lot of vegetables. Vegetables on pasta, vegetables on rice. This was extremely healthy, until you go to the part where Ed and I are found in the kitchen at 10pm, feeding on Froot Loops and tubes of cookie dough.

*Not a word but required for alliteration purposes.


The best thing that happened this week

Text Publishing (who publish fantastic books) are looking to hire an editor.

They thought they’d post about it on their website.

Hilarity ensued.

By the time I got to:

Andrew B — 22 May at 05:28PM

Do you know who else had several years of full-time editorial experience in trade publishing, and was ready to participate fully in a stimulating and rewarding editorial culture?


I was crying with laughter.

Fortunately Text Publishing are stunningly good at social media, and their tweets about it are equally hilarious.

In the Memorial Room by Janet Frame

In the Memorial Room cover image

In the Memorial Room by Janet Frame, Text Publishing, ISBN 9781922147134, RRP $35, Available now.

In the Memorial Room is the second posthumous Janet Frame novel to be published, after Towards Another Summer which I thoroughly enjoyed, both deemed too personal or too “close to home” to be published while she was alive. Fortunately both break the general mold of posthumous novels as being unfinished extracts.

In the Memorial Room follows Harry Gill, winner of the annual Watercress-Armstrong Fellowship, a “living memorial” to a dead, expatriate New Zealand poet – Margaret Rose Hurndell – which entitles him to spend six months in Menton, France, to work on his writing in a room of a villa once occupied by the dead poetess (the memorial room, natch). Sound familiar?

Frame drew on her own experiences as a Mansfield Fellow (spending six months in Menton, France, to work on her writing in a… well, you probably get the picture) to write In the Memorial Room, which apparently meant living in a social farce. Harry meets various characters in Menton, and Frame’s small details of each add a large amount of satire.

The book is imbued with a sense of hilarity, and the humour is laugh-out-loud material. Harry is constantly overlooked in Menton as the actual Fellowship winner in favour of Michael Watercress (who “looks like a real author”). Among the cast of characters he meets is George Lee, who speaks without moving his mouth and so Harry only hears one memorable phrase every time he speaks:

-Angela will be livid, he said.

I apologised and said I’d had an attack of motion sickness.

-Angela will be livid.

Eventually Harry starts to go blind, on visiting a doctor (Dr Rumor) he’s told it stems from his desire to go unnoticed. When he actually does go deaf he’s then told he’s got “auditory hibernation”. He’s like a fluttering moth, completely unsure of himself or his existence.

The writing is exactly what we expect from Frame – gorgeous, delirious and shining with delight. Her amazing ability to pile on sound and word texture is just as evident in this book.

Each day the patterns of the light in the room were different. If the sun did not shine there were no light-patterns. When the sun shone, window-shapes patterned themselves on the rust-red rug of which there were two, of equal size, square, on the polished wooden floor.

There’s also a fair dose of what I’m going to coin “Framesque WTF-ness”. As in:

Whatever the explanation I accepted my deafness with a passivity which, before the age of the raging clitoris, would have been looked on as feminine!

No, seriously, WTF?

For those who haven’t yet actually read any Janet Frame (and there are plenty, despite her many accolades),  In the Memorial Room will be a wonderful introduction, lighter than Faces in the Water, less obscure and dense than say Daughter Buffalo or Intensive Care.

In the Memorial Room adds yet another dimension and more acclaim (as if it was needed) to Frame’s amazing body of work.

$30 Meat Pack by Richard Meros

$30 Meat Pack

$30 Meat Pack: The Complete Written Correspondence between Richard Meros and Creative New Zealand, Vol 2 by Richard Meros, Lawrence and Gibson, $25, ISBN 9780473229009, Available now.

A $30 meat pack might seem like a slightly cheapskate raffle prize at your local rugby club but in the hands of Richard Meros and Wellington publishing collective Lawrence and Gibson, $30 Meat Pack is a rich prize of ridiculousness.

Billed as a volume (the second, actually) of correspondence between our eponymous hero and Creative New Zealand (renamed during the course of the correspondence as Reactive New Zealand), it’s a bit of a roller coaster ride through an absurdist New Zealand cultural landscape. From applications for a book on dating a Westerner:

These considerations have been highly hetero-normative. Eww.

to a book (and film) following Mr Meros and a crew of merry folk on a journey from the US to Venezuela, entitled “Hugo’s There! Mr Chavez what are we to do about our right wing government?” , $30 Meat Pack is amusing, nonsensical and, fortunately, slim.

It’s very, very funny.

There is an old Meros family saying: “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach him to fish for money, then it’ll grow on trees. You’ll be rich! Rich! Rich!” For years the Meros clan had been unable to decipher the riddle behind this saying, composed as it was of a vast army of mixed metaphors.

Well, I laughed. If you like books with a point of difference, a New Zealand flavour and a laugh out loud moment every two pages or so, then jump at this.