Clouds of Intrigue, Rays of Hope


Like most people who have seen the stand-up comedy and other stage-work of Charles Demers, I sure couldn’t pass up a book of his personal essays. The main thing that struck me about The Horrors: An A to Z of Funny Thoughts on Awful Things (Douglas & McIntyre) is how the author, born in 198, was able to capture the inner feelings of various generations. For example, in the chapter “F for Fat,” Demers has voiced the thoughts of nearly every baby boomer who descended into the blackboard jungles of the 196s: “Each of us was still sizing each other up, sizing ourselves up, breathlessly negotiating a new world so much more sordid than the elementary school we’d left behind just months before.” He goes on to say: “Some students brought clouds of intrigue with them…” We can intuit that Demers brought no clouds of intrigue, although he likely made up for it a few years later, when he immersed himself in the world of social activism. Whenever I read a stirring and provocative book, the writer part of my brain tries to find ways to make it even better. With Horrors I’d probably choose to omit such limiting conditions as the A to Z format, and simply wing it with a series of random segments. It takes a lot of work to think up “X for Xanthan Gum,” or “Z for Zzz,” and then produce an informative chapter about it. The freedom to write beyond that structure of A-B-C could offer even more creativity.

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Jill Mandrake writes strange but true stories and leads Sister DJ’s Radio Band, featuring rhythm and blues covers, post-vaudeville original tunes and occasional comedy bits.


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