by Kelly Zemnickis
Whatever holiday it is that you celebrate, perhaps you’re looking to add to your reading list. Well, that’s why I’m here! Think of me as the Book Fairy… or not… ’cause that sounds weird and it’s not like I’m going to leave a book under your bed.
1. Created in Darkness By Troubled Americans: The Best of McSweeney’s Humor Category (various authors) Based on the title of this book, you may think it came out in the past year. Nope! 2005. I don’t recall who tipped me off on McSweeney’s, it might have been my friend Jesse, but whoever it was I owe them a debt of gratitude. This is a fantastic collection of essays (like How Important Moments In My Life Would Have Been Different If I Was Shot Twice In The Stomach) and lists (such as Featured Menu Items At The Existentialist’s Cafe… example: Pate made from a duck that hates you). It’s wonderfully dark and bizarre and something I go to take me out of my comfort zone as a writer. My goal is to be published on their website or in a book of theirs one day.
2. The Between Boyfriends Book: A Collection of Cautiously Hopeful Essays by Cindy Chupack If you’re a fan of the TV series Sex & the City, Cindy’s name might be familiar to you. This is a marvelous collection of essays on the troubles with love that I have recommended to many a friend who has recently gotten out of a relationship. And it is so damn funny. I remember when I bought it, I was directed to the Self Help section. I took a beat, looked at the sales clerk and followed him to see the book there amongst books about infertility and whatnot… I recall thinking “I’m single, it’s not that I need help” which feels like it could be a chapter in a follow up book.
3. Comedy Writing for Late-Night TV by Joe Toplyn I have taken A LOT of comedy writing classes over the past 2 years and Joe’s book was one of the first ones recommended that I get. It’s a primer on all things comedy writing… sketch, parody, monologue jokes… if you’re wanting to pursue a path in late night or just learn all there is to learn about comedy writing? Get this book. It’s always on my coffee table, ready for me to reference.
4. How To Pronounce Knife by Souvankham Thammavongsa This book is a gosh darn treasure. It’s a masterclass in short story writing, and I am a BIG fan of Alice Munro, but Souvankham is up there… just an expert in the craft. As I dive into my own family stories in my stand-up (something that has taken me time to get comfortable doing), this is a glorious collection of stories on the immigrant experience. I hope it will spark an idea for you and get you to take your writing in a new direction.
5. Edwin Mullhouse: The Life And Death of An American Writer 1943-1954 By Jeffrey Cartwright, A Novel by Steven Millhauser This insanely long title is the title of my FAVOURITE book. Yes, friends, this is my favourite book. Back in the day, the music station MuchMusic used to have musicians come on and recommend books… and someone had this one as a fave and I took note. It’s a dark comedy, expertily written by Millhauser from the perspective of a kid detective, Jeffrey Cartwright as he details the life and death of his classmate Edwin Mullhouse. ““When I think of my youth,” he wrote (in a letter undated by him but dated by me April 26, 1954), “I think of comics and cartoons, crayons and cotton candy, clowns and kaleidoscopes.” The clowns are a lie, circuses always bored him.” It is just sublime. Dark, quirky, just pure fun.