Greet 2022 with wit, whimsy and humor
Resolve to start the new year by exploring new subjects and exercising your mental curiosity to the fullest. But don’t be weighted down by the gravity of the issues you contemplate. Lighten up and make learning a fun preoccupation.
Cranial Fracking, by Ian Frazier, 180 pages, Farrar, Straus and Giroux hardcover, 2021
Septuagenarian Ian Frazier has been delighting readers of The New Yorker magazine since 1974 with his off-beat take on contemporary issues and universal canards. This latest compilation consists of more than 40 short essays, all but two of which have appeared in the magazine.
Cranial Fracking explores a wide variety of subjects from a humorous perspective: climate change, the Board of Ed school year calendar, Ken Burns’ documentary about the Roosevelts, language-learning apps, the woes of the NY Mets and NY Jets, the advice to keep a dream journal, criterion for Boy Scout troop leaders, the cliché of the doctor on the golf course, the proverbial check in the mail, the British Museum collection of Americana, globalism, a behind-the-scenes look at serving as a law clerk for Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, Halloween decorations, the State of Texas and more. Older adults will appreciate Frazier’s nostalgic look back at life as a 63-year-old.
The author’s ruminations about the etymology of common typos are all the more ironic to those readers who can spot a spelling mistake earlier in the anthology. (Here’s a clue: it passed the spell check but is obviously used in the wrong context.)
Many of the essays begin with a quotation from an actual news story making the subsequent commentary the more outlandish.
Frazier is the two-time recipient of the Thurber Prize for American Humor. This is his seventh book of humor.
An Atlas of Extinct Countries, by Gideon Defoe, 304 pages, Europa Compass hardcover, 2021
We are well aware of the demise of Yugoslavia and East Germany — aka the German Democratic Republic — in our own time, which involved important shifts in the geopolitical history of Europe.
But there are many more examples of extinct countries through the centuries that are much less serious in impact. They provide perfect fodder for this whimsical compilation by British author and screenwriter Gideon Defoe.
Circle the globe as you turn the pages of this witty atlas of “countries” that no longer exist. An Atlas of Extinct Countries is written in the archetypal British satirical style, replete with must-read footnotes and pithy, snide commentary.
If you’re in the mood for a soupçon of facts smothered in dollops of humor, read on. Looking for cocktail-party banter to add zest to your conversation? This is your cup of tea.
You may remember the history of Texas, but did you know that in 1810 a Lone Star flag was unfurled to proclaim the Republic of West Florida? That entity lasted four months. It is now part of Louisiana.
The Tangier International Zone, the Most Serene Republic of Venice — not to mention the Ottawa Civic Hospital Maternity Ward — all served strategic and vital purposes. Learn all about them.
Most of the entries involve rascals, charlatans and scoundrels who founded “countries” to swindle investors, subjugate indigenous populations, gain fame and create hereditary monarchies. The flags and anthems of five extinct countries conclude this tour-de-force in esoteric history.
Non Sequitur 2022 Day-to-Day Calendar, by Wiley Miller; Close to Home 2022 Day-to-Day Calendar, by John McPherson; The Argyle Sweater 2022 Day-to-Day Calendar, by Scott Hilburn, Andrews McMeel Publishing
Each of these page-a-day desk calendars supplies a daily dose of whimsy, irony and humor from popular contemporary cartoonists whose works appear in the pages of daily newspaper comics. They provide humorous commentary on American culture and human nature.
Non Sequitur and Close to Home launched 30 years ago; The Argyle Sweater debuted 14 years ago. They continue to be fresh and pointed, funny and ironic.
If you’ve been following these comics in daily syndication, you’ll enjoy revisiting the best of previous entries from years gone by. If you’re a new reader, get hooked. Each of these calendars is printed with soy-based ink on recycled paper.