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Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

Time Event
12:04p
Humor, history, and (reasonably) current events ...
A week or so back I'd run up to the dollar store to pick up a bunch of stuff that we'd needed that I knew they had up there, after not having been there is a while. One of the “new things” I found were several shelf-loads of new books. As regular readers of this space know, in the many years that I've been “between jobs” I've learned to pinch pennies, and one of the best book deals out there are the ones that find their way to the dollar store, as even if the on-line new/used guys have something for 1¢, you still need to pay $3.99 shipping on it, where a book at the dollar store is, obviously, a dollar. While there were a number of books that looked “plausible”, I really wasn't in a “book acquiring” mood (hey, it happens from time to time), but was in the mood for “something completely reasonably different” to inject into my reading, and a humor book seemed like a good bet for that.

This is how Dave Barry's History of the Millennium (So Far) not only found its way into my to-be-read pile, it moved right into the reading rotation in a day or so. Now, it's evident that this was not a particularly strongly considered purchase, so I came to the book with a bare minimum of data … familiar with the author, reasonably interested in the subject, open to delving into the genre … but not much else. So, of course, I was a bit surprised. It tuns out that this was a clever way to re-package Barry's end-of-year columns, recapping the events of the year (in varying degrees of wacky re-telling). He starts the book off, however, with 33 pages on the last millennium … compacting a thousand years of history (1,000ce to 1999ce) into a sixth of a just-over 200 page book. Needless to say, if “brevity is the soul of wit”, this level of abbreviation allows for quite the witty recitation of history.

There appears to be another reason for this intro chapter, however. The book came out in 2007, and “the Millennium (So Far)” should have encompassed seven chapters, one each for 2000 through 2006, but the 2001 installment fell victim to the 9/11 national funk, as Barry would have been starting work on that year's edition a few weeks after the attacks, and he opted to take a pass rather that either being inappropriately humorous, or becoming untowardly serious. So, I'm guessing, the “Y1K” review was standing in for that dark year.

So, what we have here is a re-use of six of Dave Barry's end-of-the-year columns, wrapped up with an intro and put out as a book. This is not a bad thing, but it does imply that there are no great story arcs or narratives waiting in its pages. Each of the yearly chapters averages around 30 pages, and is divided up by monthly sections, meaning that each month gets about 2-3 pages of “news” reported. Most of this is “funny stuff inspired by the news” (with running gags each year of stories that just wouldn't die, like Greta VanSusteren reporting on every story “from Aruba”), but a few things were pulled straight from the news:

True item: In the War on Smoking, several states take legal steps to protect major tobacco companies from an anticipated huge damage award in a class action lawsuit. The states need the tobacco companies to say in business, because, thanks to the tobacco settlement, the states now make more money from the sale of cigarettes than the tobacco companies do. If this makes no sense to you, it's because you're a human, as opposed to a lawyer.
This was another odd find at the dollar store because the book does appear to still be in print, selling at the on-line guys at full cover ($22.95), while like-new copies are in the used channel for a penny plus shipping … go figure! If this sounds like a fun read to you, your best bet would be to check the dollar stores, but it's out there for cheap on-line as well.


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