Jenny Boully's "A Short Essay on Being" is great all the way through, but I especially appreciate its crazily associative and circuitous start. Here's the first paragraph.
A pad is something you can write in, as in sheets of paper bound together. It is also what you bleed on when you first start. When I grew older, a pad was someone’s house. My college roommate and I had, according to many persons who traipsed in and out of our campus apartment during our senior year, a cool pad, a “budget” pad. You could also pad something, as in stuff it with cotton, or you could have a bra with built-in or removable pads: a padded bra. Pad is all of these, but seven years ago, I learned that it is a type of Thai noodle dish: pad Thai, it’s called. One weekend, I was going to visit a friend from graduate school in Austin. I told her that I would visit and make her pot Thai. She told me, “It’s pad Thai.” And even though she knew I was Thai and even though she knew that I was born in Thailand and had been back numerous times and even though she knew that my mother raised me to speak Thai and still spoke to me in Thai, I thanked her for correcting me.
It's at the new online Triquarterly--looking pretty snappy btw. The Boully essay is hilarious and I laughed outloud at points.
Speaking of laughing (or not), I read Sara Zarr's STORY OF A GIRL the other day. It was completely humorless and I loved it. I did not laugh out loud one time. I also did not put the book down one time. I read the entire thing one night at a Barnes and Noble in Valparaiso, Indiana.
I generally do not appreciate stories (or people) with no humor. But the story was straight and clean and continually engaging and the characters were smart and lovable. Sara Zarr knows funny, I'm pretty sure. It's just not her program. Or it wasn't for this book. That's fine. Some people don't know funny, and yet, strangely, it's their only program. That's not fine. That's awkward.
Do you require humor in your reading materials? I thought I did. Not, "Ha ha, God, is that a pisser, I tell ya." But at least an undercurrent of humor. A palpable awareness of humor--if not in the book, then somewhere in the world.
This post is not funny I'm aware.