Faith Can Move Mountains... But Dynamite Works Better

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Mutant Mice And Petty Larceny: The Middle Age of Aquarius

“And just when everybody stops being worried about mental health, June sneaks up on us with National Accordion Awareness Month. Man, that’s cold. That’s just wrong.” ~ Barry Parham
Writing or reading humour is an entirely different beast from a novel. The pacing’s different, the tone’s lighter, and it usually makes you laugh more. Unless the writer is doing something entirely wrong. In which case the book has backfired. I’ve read many humour compilations. Some of them are from columnists with weekly or daily columns in newspapers, magazines, or online sites. Others are from stand-up comedians. The good ones have made me fall about laughing. The bad ones commit the cardinal humour sin of not being funny. Ray Romano, I’m looking at you. And your ghost writer.
Fortunately Barry Parham is firmly part of the former. He has been writing humour columns online for a long while, compiling his work into books. I recently dove into one of his books, The Middle Age of Aquarius. And I quickly found myself smirking and laughing at the way he tells a story, and his deft skill with a punchline.
The book is organized roughly by theme, with recurring elements playing out as we go along. Making fun of getting older comes up again and again. The buffoonery of politics is tapped into (of course, that’s a subject that’s just begging to be lampooned). Life in the South is another topic for fodder. Skewering traditions and pop culture. And of course a twisted, clever variation on Dear Abby.
I started laughing early, and kept laughing throughout. Parham writes of pitting show horse stallions against monster trucks, of the real meaning of The Nutcracker experience, or why people are in such a rush to get through South Carolina. Then he turns around and explains what’s wrong with the Zodiac, wonders how old is too old for Hallowe’en trick or treating, and recounts how Southerners overreact to a snow storm. He’ll don his Dear Abby persona to dole out advice about everything from caffeine insanity to idiot fellow employees to political shenanigans. From there the horrors of math are laid out, death in the age of Facebook is examined, and the perils of the average daily commute are spelled out. Then we get into the art of stupidity and the ordeal that is shopping in gigantic monolithic box stores. And there’s much, much more.
Parham has a smart, cynical style of writing that I found very enjoyable. He knows how to build on a story, with just the right pacing for the joke. He’ll start you off with a laugh in each topic, and build from there. By the time he reaches the punchline, you’re straight out laughing at where he’s taken the story... not to mention the sacred cows he’s sacrificed along the way. It’s a deviously hilarious book, and it’ll get you laughing too. Unless your idea of the highest form of comedy happens to be Ray Romano. In which case, God help you.
In closing... can we talk about National Accordion Destruction Awareness Month?

The Middle Age of Aquarius, along with Barry's other twisted books, can be found at his page. He can also be tracked down at his blog, Mooncalf Communion. He refers all legal challenges to his lawyers and swears he had nothing to do with knocking over the Bellagio.


  1. I have this one on my Kindle but haven't started reading it yet--but now I can't wait to start!

    Ray Romano...have to agree....

  2. Barry is way funnier than Ray Romano and I hope to get this book someday after I've plowed through the hundred or so I have to read first.

  3. Aren't you a little hard on Ray? He's a sensitive guy. What if his mother reads this? Barry Parham? Oh, his mother can read it, no problem. I just hope she doesn't play the accordion.

  4. Accordion awareness month? Hmmm, better tell all my accordion playing friends about that one. Time to break out in a polka, or do you prefer waltz?

    Well-written book review of a book I've never read. What's new?

  5. Sounds like a good read?

    PS - Um... what is with the dude sending body bits to the Conservatives? Yikes!

  6. Indeed, humor that is not funny is a sin. Good book review!

  7. How do you come up with your blog titles? Ah, they are seriously awesome.

    I also love reading your blog posts because you use the best word choices, like buffoonery, fodder.

  8. @Norma: Not everyone loves Raymond!

    @Eve: We're in the same boat!

    @Tim: I'd ask his mother if Ray was dropped on his head a lot as a kid.

    @Moon Child: my dad plays the accordion. In my view, the only good use for such a thing is being placed into a catapult.

  9. @Talli: Really freaky. They intercepted one package meant for the Liberal Party at the postal sorting facility, and according to a note, the killer plans on doing it again, and has four more such packages out there.

    @Lynn: Thanks!

    @Russo: In this case, I just picked a couple of items out of the book at random that flowed well together.

  10. I give humor writers a ton of credit. I love to include humor in all my manuscripts but to focus solely on humor is tough!

  11. I am sure I commented! I know I commented! Something went wrong.

    Sounds like an amusing read!

    Body parts to politicians? Send them brains! :D

  12. Has to be good. I follow a Blog of Barry, and it never fails to amuse/incite/intrigue/make you laugh/etc. It is at:

  13. Good review. I don't read a lot of humor. Actually I'd be in the remedial group for pop culture. That's one of the reasons I love reading your blog. You keep me up to date. (Well, at least as well as anyone could.)


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