Saturday, 9 August 2014

Fierce Pajamas: An Anthology of Humour Writing from The New Yorker

edited by David Remnick and Henry Finder

published 2000





From: Glengarry Glen Plaid by Frank Cammuso and Hart Seely

appeared in the magazine in 1994



Excerpts from the new Land Ho! Catalogue, as it would be written by David Mamet


OUR FLANNEL SHIRTS ARE AS WARM AS A CUP OF COCOA!

The great flannel shirts you had, what do you remember about them? Not the pattern. Not the sleeves. Maybe it was the collar, the way it caressed your neck. Maybe it made a smell. Maybe it was the easy way it hung on you, like a drunk temp at an office party. Friend, this is a flannel. Most flannel shirts weigh eight ounces, they’re crap. This weighs ten ounces. When it’s so cold outside your balls shrink up like croutons, those extra two ounces are ounces of gold.

But you can’t have these shirts.

They are not for the likes of you. These shirts are for preferred customers. If you called last year, you could have bought one, maybe, but not now. It’s too late, they’re sold out. They won’t be avail- Huh? What’s that, Gladys? We do have a few in stock? Tonight only? Well, pal, you just got lucky. You’ve got eight hours to get in on the ground floor. Of course you can talk it over with your wife. How many should I put you down for? Seven? Nine? AND THE ALL-COTTON FABRIC GUARANTEES COMFORT!



observations: The perfection of this piece lies in its equally brilliant  spoofing of the style of both subjects: playwright David Mamet and what is clearly meant to be the Lands End catalogue. The next section is about stirrup pants, those stalwarts of the 1990s:
You bitched about our stirrup pants. We heard you. Christ Almighty, everybody in the state heard you…. What ever happened to straps that held pants up?




This is a huge brick of a book, 500 pages worth, and I would love to say it was full of gems like this, but (to my taste) it wasn’t: long dreary pieces that hardly seemed worth salvaging. It was very disappointing, especially for a book called Fierce Pajamas, which might have been expected to please me. Most of the writers are much-better known than Cammuso and Seely, but few are as smart or as funny. (Though I did like the synopsis of Joyce’s Ulysses featuring Jim Rockford.)

I would really like to know if the editors got together in their offices and roared their heads off at this collection: it seems unlikely.

And there’s one final complaint. Could they just not resist using their 1929 F Scott Fitzgerald piece because of his name? ‘A short autobiography’ is a list of drinks taken – ‘cases of dim, cut, unsatisfactory whiskey in Delaware’. Beautifully-written, yes, worth preserving, yes, but in a collection of humour, given FSF’s future, no. On grounds of taste. It ends with

1929 
A feeling that all liquor has been drunk and all it can do for one has been experienced, and yet – “Garcon, un Chablis-Mouton1902, et pour commencer, une petite carafe de vin rose. C’est ca – merci.”

Not funny.

The top picture is an advert for Karo Syrup from George Eastman House.

The stirrup pants come from Wikimedia Commons.

8 comments:

  1. Moira, on the face of it this sounds interesting and while I like to read The New Yorker" occasionally, I often despair at the length of the articles and fiction. Sometimes there's just not enough time to read through the whole thing.

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    1. I know - the New Yorker is good, but it is like reading an extra novel each week, and it can get too much. I think subscribers end up with unread piles of them... you have to be ruthless about picking your articles in my experience.

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  2. Moira - So sorry to hear this one didn't live up to its potential. That first bit you shared was really funny, but of course it's hard to sustain that over 500 pages. Well, much as I enjoyed your post (and I did!) I think I'll let that suffice as my experience with this one...

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    1. Happy to cherrypick for you Margot! I was surprised I didn't enjoy it more, but sometimes you just have to shrug and move on...

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  3. Thanks - not one for me. You've saved me the bother.

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    1. Can't argue with that - this book was a wasted opportunity, and cannot recommend it.

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  4. The book doesn't sound entertaining (and too big) but your post is. So thanks for that.

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    1. It's a huge book, so I feel I'm doing everyone a favour! Thanks Tracy.

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