Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Camels Are Easy, Comedy's Hard

Camels Are Easy, Comedy's Hard by Roy Blount Jr.
Open Road Media, 12/10/13
eBook, 303 pages
ISBN-13: 9781480457751

An eclectic collection from Roy Blount Jr., master of American humor writing

I’ll tell you what kind of book I believe in: one that makes people say, at first sight, what the first person who ever saw a camel must have said: “What in the world is that?” And then, after a while, “Yet it seems to fit together some way.”

In this laugh-a-minute assortment of essays, travel writing, poems, and even the occasional crossword puzzle, Roy Blount Jr. covers sixty-four different subjects, all unified by his trademark humor. “Tan” is a personal essay about Blount’s lifelong battle with—sometimes for and sometimes against—that elusive summer glow. “Wild Fish Ripped My Flesh” chronicles his misadventures navigating the Amazon River. And “Lit Demystified Quickly” is a tongue-in-cheek poem about larger-than-life literary figures such as James Joyce, William Faulkner, and Walt Whitman.

Camels Are Easy, Comedy’s Hard is a classic compendium of the wisecracks and wisdom for which Blount is renowned.

My Thoughts:

Camels Are Easy, Comedy's Hard  by Roy Blount Jr. is a  collection of  writing which includes; essays, poems, short stories, travel writing, reminiscence, sports writing, political discussion, interviews of famous people, and crossword puzzles. I hope I didn't leave anything out. There are 64 pieces in the book; 61 originally appeared in 28 different publications. They range wildly in length from the very short (23 words) to long (10,000 words). Many are recent but a few, as Blount says, "have been acquiring patina for ten to twenty-one years." This is a newly released eBook edition of Camels Are Easy, Comedy's Hard which was originally released in 1991.

As anyone who has ever read Roy Blount Jr. knows, this is a humourous book simply based on Blount's presentation and the way he looks at things. The stories run the gamet from exploring the Amazon to French painting to coon dogs to synchronized swimming meets. The travel writing includes some reflections on camels as well as visits to Dierks, Arkansas; Kampala, Uganda; Atlantic City, New Jersey; Esperanza, and Peru. Famous people written about include Gilda Radner and Jonathan Demme.

For example, Blount says about the Amazon "To tell the truth, when people ask me what the Amazon was like, it is not man-eating fish that spring to mind. It is the mud. Strange gray-green-blue-brown mud." in "Eating out of House and Home"  Blount writes: "You know why Manet’s Le Dejeuner sur l’herbe is so sexy, don’t you? Not just because one of the people in it is outdoors naked—I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that half the people in the entire history of French painting are outdoors naked. It’s because she is outdoors naked eating lunch."

Or in "I Model for GQ" he writes"On a scale of the ones to the nines, I am usually dressed to roughly the twos. In order to avoid giving offense at special occasions, I will go as far as the threes or fours. The only reason to move on up to snazzy, however, is to attract business or women. And the type of business or women you attract by dressing snazzy is the type that will expect you to dress snazzy all the time. I wouldn’t want to live like that. Another reason I am not natty is that I like to eat lying down sometimes. I also like to eat sitting up, standing and walking, but let’s face it, you can’t always be sitting up, standing or walking when you eat; sometimes you’re going to be eating lying down. Or at least leaning back. And you spill stuff on your lapels."

How can you not laugh at a man who is that honest?

I particularly enjoyed reading his piece on Gilda Radner, but I could easily list a dozen others (The Amazon (well, all the travel monologues), getting a tan, Jonathan Demme, all the crossword puzzles...

Highly Recommended
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of
Open Road Media via Netgalley for review purposes.

Contents include: 
About the Title; How a Camel Goes; Man Chewed by Many Animals; Eating Out of House and Home; The Vanity of Human Dishes; Tan; Gilda: “This Stoff Came Outta Me?”; Nancy Is Herself; Couldn’t Use Them in a Game; What Is Funny about the National Geographic? (An Analysis That Appeared in the One-Hundredth Anniversary Issue of that Magazine); Caesars for the Bath Gel; Wild Fish Ripped My Flesh; I Model for GQ; Demme: A Damn Good Kennel Man; YouDon’t Say“Mush”; Yo Yo Yo, Rowa uh Rowa, Hru Hru; Yet Another True Study of Mankind; On Science; Hyenas Feel Good about Themselves; How to Struggle; We Feed, We Lions; Lit Demystified Quickly; Harper’s Bazaar Asked Me to Write a Review of My Last Collection Which I Am Now Reprinting in This One, So Sue Me; The Way Mama Tells It; A Man’s Got to Read; On Manhood; MEOW Dumber Than War?; Words for the Gulf; Goofing on Yahweh; The Fall (If the Original Story Had Been Conceived, pace Harold Bloom, by a Man) On Being One’s Own Guy; Gutes and Eulas; The Puzzle Section: A Partial Explanation New World Order: Chaos; By Christ’s Ego! (Out of Aerobic Guilt); Are We Ready for Leaders We Can Read?; Can Credibility Be Had?; Back-to-School Double Bind; Despicability Sucks!; Our Original Mama; Declining Change: Nobody Loves Me, Everybody Hates Me, Guess I’ll Go 15 Across; Slippery Pleasures; Too Hot to Smooch?; GOP Soul Train; Clusters Gonna Get You If You Don’t Watch Out; Fly Third Class; The Sunday Paper: A Column Three-Dot Column; In-Your-Face L-Wordism (And the Role of Poetry and Flaggot Jokes); Don’t Deficit There… DO SOMETHING; Should the South Re-Secede?; The New Solvency: We Owe It to Ourselves; Sticking It on the Gipper Sideways; Free Speech, My Foot; National Griper’s Day Is Just Like Everything Else These Days; The CEO Blues; Forgive Them, for They Have Told Us How They Did It; A Christmas Carol (for the Eighties); Christmas Dwindles; Tomorrow Will Not Wait; And Now for the Resurrection(Blub;) Gospel Rap; Afternoon with a Buck; Good and Over; Acknowledgements

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