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BookLust: Free Range Chickens May 20, 2009

Posted by A. Robinson in BookLust.
Tags: ,
Very Clucking Funny

Very Clucking Funny

Simon Rich’s frolicking romp of a book is one of the most unique, and funniest, I’ve read*.  The book–actually recommended by Dooce at some point, I can’t be bothered to sift through her website to find the exact post–was the first I’d read via Lexcycle’s e-book reader, Stanza.  Stanza itself is an application for the iPhone that allows you to download full e-texts onto the mobile device to flip through.  There are some bugs in it, but hey, the price is right (free!) and who am I to turn down free reading material.

Anyway, Free Range Chickens was my first ever Stanza download.  I figured I’d need something funny to get me through Easter in Berryville, because I seriously suspected the whole holiday would be an EPIC FAIL.

When I first flipped (fingered?) through the book, I was surprised to find that the entire thing is written in script form.  These mini-episodes, which are grouped into major parts, are short.  The longest isn’t more than a few pages long.  The unique structure of Rich’s book gave me pause.  On the one hand, I was intrigued by the unfamiliar form, but I worried that I’d downloaded a total junker.  Scripts are hard things to pull off well (just ask any playwright!).

I began the first part, Childhood, and within the first few pages I had actually laughed out loud. As a reader, I catch myself smiling occasionally, but I rarely outwardly demonstrate any emotions the book may elicit.  Rich’s history as a writer for Mad TV and Saturday Night Live shines in the vignettes that he creates.  The dialogue is ironic and poignant; Rich is able to use his own possibly legitimate experiences to touch chords in readers.  For example, one of his first pieces has to do with how a child imagines the conversation between the monsters that live in his closet.  As a grown-ass adult woman who is still afraid of her closet, I completely sympathize. This one, along with the boxing and dissection pieces, have been oft reread and repeated.  I still cannot read The Rules of Boxing out loud without laughing so hard I cry.

Overall, the book is a quick read, which is a little disappointing.  I was able to burn through the thing in slightly over an hour.  I would have regretted this a little more, except that the last few parts of the book–namely the Relationship and God sections–were lackluster compared to the rollicking good time the first half of the book provides.  It seemed as if Rich front-loaded all of his great material and just sort of parsed in a few other pieces in order to make the book brief rather than ridiculously/unforgivably short.  It’s those last two sections that keep this book from being a journal publication (think: literary magazines).

Rich’s brand of humor isn’t for everyone.  Flip through the book before you purchase it: if you like what you see, this book would be invaluable as a pick-me-up addition to any bibliophile’s collection.

4 bookmarks: stylistically unique and very funny, but the end bogs down

* In the true-blue comedy genre…**

** Recently, anyway.



1. rachelwashere - May 21, 2009

wait a minute… you read a book on your phone? this is a world gone MAD.

also, I’d still say flip, or e-flip. Fingering a book sounds, well dirty.

dorianagraye - May 21, 2009

Lol! Since when did you have a problem with dirty? 😉

Rachel - May 25, 2009

Did I say it was a problem? I was just trying to protect your puritan image. 😉

2. lindseybunny - May 21, 2009

Would you have paid for the book is the real question.

Ashley - May 21, 2009

I actually would. I considered picking it up at Barnes and Noble last time I was there.

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