So The Bureau Chiefs, the geniuses behind the Twitter account @FakeAPStylebook (and now @FakePewResearch), sent me a copy of their first book, Write More Good, earlier this year. It’s almost all fresh material rather than a compendium of tweets, combining a fake writing stylebook with a fake self-help book for would-be journalists. And it is hilarious, especially since I do write for a living.
Each chapter covers a different area of journalism, some on specific sections of a newspaper, others on fundamentals like grammar or not getting yourself sued into oblivion. (To wit, the glossary entry on Scientology is simply “Our legal department informs us that Scientology is just swell.” Although the entry on Clear Channel – “see: Skynet” – might ruffle some feathers.) Freed from the constraints of 140 characters per joke, the writers stretch out to entire paragraphs before returning to 140-character jokes in the form of bullet points and glossary entries, although the book is surprisingly short on footnotes.
If you’ve read the @FakeAPStylebook feed, you know the writers (there are many, or just one with many personalities) can veer from crude humor to subtle satire from one tweet to the next. That style worked better for me on the printed page, which surprised me, but the constant careening between styles of humor kept me off balance the way an episode of Parks and Recreation does. The section on how to write about global warming, for example, includes bullet points about how your editor is going to put a picture of a sad polar bear next to the article, how you are obligated to mention in an article on a climate-change conference that it is currently cold somewhere in the world, how you should quote pundits who criticize celebrity activists who drive SUVs, and “We’re not saying not to mention cow farts when talking about climate change, but, dude: cow farts. That’s hysterical.” (Followed by a table of suggested “storms of the century names” that reminded me of this e-card.)
The sports chapter was, of course, a particular favorite, including thoughts on dealing with angry fans on the Internet, followed by references to Mario Mendoza, Darko Mlicic (RIP), Gerry Cooney, and, for no apparent reason, jai alai. The book is loaded with references to films, literature, and historical figures and events that more than once sent me to the computer to figure out what I’d missed. And the unconventional format means that if you didn’t like (or get) one joke, just keep reading, because there are ten more on the same page. It’s less a labor of love than the fruits of frustration for journalists who have seen journalism from the inside and are still undergoing intensive therapy to try to forget it.
If, however, you’re looking for something you can share with your little one(s), I just bought another of Berkeley Breathed’s children’s books, since Mars Needs Moms! was such a hit with my daughter. (Too bad the movie got such awful reviews.) This one, Edwurd Fudwupper Fibbed Big, isn’t as sentimental as that book, with more outrageous humor and hints of the snark that made Bloom County such a big part of my 1980s memories.
Told by Edwurd’s little sister, Fannie Fudwupper, Edwurd Fudwupper Fibbed Big is the story of a little liar who spins some pretty tall tales until, one day, he breaks a ceramic pig dear to his mother and, rather than taking responsibility, comes up with an elaborate fib so big that the Army and Air Force get involved, as well as some sort of space monster whose head is as big as the Earth and who has an eye on the end of his nose. These unforeseen consequences (piled on an earlier, funnier fib) lead to a surprisingly sweet resolution as well as a lesson on lying – I think. The meter and wordplay seem like a cross between an homage to and parody of Dr. Seuss, while the exaggerated drawings call to mind the best Bloom County Sunday strips.
And, of course, my wife’s Etsy shop, featuring earrings and necklaces she’s designed, remains open for business. Enter coupon code “TWELVE” to get 12% off (note: entering “FIFTY” will not have the analogous effect).