When Harold Ross founded The New Yorker in 1925, he described it as a “comic weekly.” And although it has become much more than that, it has remained true in its irreverent heart to the founder’s description, publishing the most illustrious literary humorists of the modern era—among them Robert Benchley, Dorothy Parker, Groucho Marx, George S. Kaufman, James Thurber, S. J. Perelman, Peter De Vries, Mike Nichols, Marshall Brickman, Woody Allen, Donald Barthelme, Calvin Trillin, George W. S. Trow, Veronica Geng, Garrison Keillor, Ian Frazier, Roy Blount, Jr., Bruce McCall, Steve Martin, Christopher Buckley, and Paul Rudnick.
This anthology gathers together, for the first time, the funniest work of more than seventy New Yorker contributors. Parodists take on not only writers like Hemingway and Kerouac, but TV documentaries, Italian cinema, and etiquette books. (Enough have been published, Robert Benchley maintains, “that there should be no danger of toppling over forward into the wrong soup, or getting into arguments as to which elbow belongs on which arm.”) Other pieces offer perspectives on the heights of fame, the depths of social embarrassment, and the ups and downs of love and sex. Such well-loved sketches as Thurber’s “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” take their place alongside light-hearted essays on food, tennis, and taxis, and flights of fancy that follow an apparently simple premise to the point of no return, and sometimes well beyond. Here you will find large insights (Woody Allen: “Why does man kill? He kills for food. And not only food: frequently there must be a beverage”) and hard-earned wisdom (Ian Frazier on dating your mom: “Here is a grown, experienced, loving woman—one you do not have to go to a party or a singles bar to meet, one you do not have to go to great lengths to know”). And, not least, a great deal of helpful advice, including Steve Martin’s on memory and middle age: “Bored? Here’s a way the over-fifty set can easily kill a good half hour: 1. Place your car keys in your right hand. 2. With your left hand, call a friend and confirm a lunch or dinner date. 3. Hang up the phone. 4. Now look for your car keys.”
A rich selection of humorous verse includes caustic gems by Dorothy Parker, the effortless whimsy of Phyllis McGinley, and Ogden Nash’s unforgettable slapstick prosody, as well as forays by luminaries who ought to have known better, like Robert Graves, Elizabeth Bishop, and W. H. Auden.
A wonderful gift for others, or a delightful treat for oneself, Fierce Pajamas is a treasury of laughter from a publication described by Auden as “the best comic magazine in existence.”
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This book is a perfect gift for all fans of The New Yorker! If you are like me, The New Yorker¿s cartoons draw your attention first. Then, you¿ll look for quips in verse. You¿ll scan your favorite features. Next, you¿ll scan the table of contents for your favorite writers. Finally, you will read articles on subjects of interest. In all cases, you can expect to be surprised with wit . . . even in the midst of ¿serious¿ articles on ¿serious¿ subjects. Unless you have read every issue of The New Yorker over the past 75 plus years, undoubtedly you¿ve missed some wonderful humor in the form of prose and poetry. This anthology lets you quickly access the works that have ¿stood the test of time¿ to still produce a laugh now for both editor, David Remnick, and editorial director, Henry Finder. Over 70 contributors are represented, many by more than one piece. You are cautioned that ¿humor is often diluted by concentration¿ so that you should sample this collection over time in small doses, like medicine. The works are loosely organized into Spoofs, the Frenzy of Renown, the War between Men and Women, the Writing Life, a Funny Thing Happened, Words of Advice, Recollections and Reflections, and Verse. The works vary a lot in how quickly they will reach your funny bone. Some will release many laughs, while others are basically one joke that will raise not too much more than a smile. After you have finished all of the offerings to the altar of humor, you may wish to create your own index of which works match best with which moods and times when you read. I usually prefer compact works suffused with quick humor. Here are my favorites in the collection: E.B. White, ¿Duck in Fierce Pajamas¿ which begins with ¿Ravaged by pink eye, I lay for a week scarce caring whether I lived or died.¿ and ¿Critic¿ Marshall Brickman, ¿The Analytic Napkin¿ Ian Frazier, ¿LGA - ORD¿ which begins with ¿Grey bleak final afternoon ladies and gentlemen . . . .¿ Groucho Marx, ¿Press Agents I Have Known¿ Chet Williamson, ¿Gandhi at the Bat¿ F. Scott Fitzgerald, ¿A Short Autobiography¿ Frank Sullivan, ¿The Cliché Expert Takes the Stand¿ and ¿The Cliché Expert Tells All¿ Ruth Suckow, ¿How to Achieve Success as a Writer¿ Michael J. Arlen, ¿Are We Losing the Novel Race?¿ Woody Allen, ¿Selections from the Allen Notebooks¿ Peter De Vries, ¿The High Ground, or Look, Ma, I¿m Explicating¿ Robert Benchley, ¿Why We Laugh -- Or Do We?¿ Steve Martin, ¿Changes in the Memory after Fifty¿ Clarence Day, ¿Father Isn¿t Much Help¿ S.J. Perelman, ¿Cloudland Revisited¿ Martin Amis, ¿Tennis Personalities¿ John Updike, ¿Car Talk¿ Dorothy Parker, ¿Rhyme of an Involuntary Violet¿ Ogden Nash, ¿Procrastination Is All the Time¿ Robert Graves, ¿The Naked and the Nude¿ Communing with these wonderful writers will also encourage you to read more of their work, and the works of those they spoof. What could be finer? I hope that the editors consider producing a second volume that includes serious works which contain humorous asides and interludes. Look on the bright side of every ¿overly serious¿ subject. In that way, you can avoid the ¿deadly dullness¿ stall! Donald Mitchell, co-author of The 2,000 Percent Solution and The Irresistible Growth Enterprise
I'm aware of no other volume that packs such a diverse collection of humorous writing. From Groucho Marx to Steve Martin, from Robert Benchley to Calvin Trillin, all of the major contributors of amusing essays, stories and verse to The New Yorker are represented. You'll treasure this book for decades to come.