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Adventures of Captain Simon Suggs
Late of the Tallapoosa Volunteers; Together with Taking the Census and Other Alabama Sketches
Johnson Jones Hooper
University of Alabama Press, 1993

Originally published in 1845, Adventures of Captain Simon Suggs is a series of sketches written in part to parody some the campaign literature of the era. The character, Simon Suggs, with his motto, “it is good to be shifty in a new country,” fully incarnates a backwoods version of the national archetypes now know as the confidence man, the grafter, the professional flim-flam artist supremely skilled in the arts by which a man gets along in the world. This classic volume of good humor is set in the rough-and-tumble world of frontier life and politics.

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Aunty Lily
and other delightfully perverse stories
Jennifer Munro
Parkhurst Brothers, Inc., 2016

 Munro’s stories were born five decades ago in a small English village where children were seen and not heard, fathers were wacky, neighbors were snoopy, and maiden aunts were beautifully crafted artifices. Her original stories, dolloped with characters reminiscent of those from her childhood, telling of domestic shenanigans and outings gone revealingly awry are written with meticulous timing. Rich in details about the frailty and strength of the human spirit, her stories resonate with the truth of what is means to be human.

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The Baileys Harbor Bird and Booyah Club
Dave Crehore
University of Wisconsin Press, 2012

Open this book and you are in Door County, Wisconsin, strolling down Coot Lake Road—a one-lane, dead-end gravel track just a few miles from Baileys Harbor and the Lake Michigan shore. Along the way you meet George and Helen O’Malley, who are growing old gracefully. Russell, their brave and empathetic golden retriever, wags hello and offers you a paw to shake.
    The Olsons and the Berges live just down the road. Bump Olson is the local septic tank pumper and birdwatcher extraordinaire, and Hans Berge, MD, PhD, was at one time the only Norwegian psychiatrist in Chicago—or so he says. In a cottage out by the highway, you may spot Lloyd Barnes, ex–Tennessee state trooper, hound fancier, and local man of mystery. Uncle Petter Sorenson, visiting from Grand Forks, takes the polar bear plunge at Jacksonport. Around the neighborhood you’ll meet Deputy Doug, the flirtatious cellist Debbie Dombrowski, and Italian import Rosa Zamboni.
    Dave Crehore’s sketches of life on the Door peninsula also expound on:
•    the delights of codfish pizza
•    how to insult Canadians
•    what to expect at your fiftieth high school reunion
•    how to lose a school board election
•    the prevention of creeping old-fogyism
•    Marilyn, a buxom eight-pound smallmouth bass
•    and what goes on in the winter, when no one is there.

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Bear County, Michigan
Stories
John Counts
Northwestern University Press, 2025

Following desperate characters in desperate circumstances in the rural Midwest

In these colorful, darkly comic stories, veteran journalist and crime reporter John Counts takes readers to an often-ignored part of the country: a fictional Great Lakes coastal town in northern Michigan defined by beauty and bleakness. The cast of characters in these connected stories ranges from addicts to backwoods misfits to ruined lumber families, all bound together by their desire to obtain something just out of reach. Big Frank breaks out of a rehab facility trying to outrun grief. The women in the village of Brotherhood grapple with sterility resulting from an environmental calamity. A local politician must convince her mother to leave a nudist colony. And in the final, sweeping story, a splinter group from the local tribe attempts to reclaim its ancestral land by force. The people of Bear County and their predicaments encompass the wildly original and yet totally ordinary truths about American life off the beaten track.

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The Cleveland Heights LGBTQ Sci-Fi and Fantasy Role Playing Club
Doug Henderson
University of Iowa Press, 2021

On Thursday nights, the players assemble in the back of Readmore Comix and Games. Celeste is the dungeon master; Valerie, who works at the store, was roped in by default; Mooneyham, the banker, likes to argue; and Ben, sensitive, unemployed, and living at home, is still recovering from an unrequited love. In the real world they go about their days falling in love, coming out at work, and dealing with their family lives all with varying degrees of success. But in the world of their fantasy game, they are heroes and wizards fighting to stop an evil cult from waking a sleeping god.

But then a sexy new guy, Albert, joins the club, Ben’s character is killed, and Mooneyham’s boyfriend is accosted on the street. The connections and parallels between the real world and the fantasy one become stronger and more important than ever as Ben struggles to bring his character back to life and win Albert’s affection, and the group unites to organize a protest at a neighborhood bar. All the while the slighted and competing vampire role playing club, working secretly in the shadows, begins to make its move.

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THE COLLECTED FABLES OF AMBROSE BIERCE
S.T. JOSHI
The Ohio State University Press, 2000

Ambrose Bierce was a well-known and highly admired journalist, short story writer, and satirist. After distinguished Civil War service, Bierce became a journalist, and in 1887 he became a columnist for William Randolph Hearst’s Sunday Examiner. His work for the San Francisco Examiner made his reputation, especially on the West Coast. In 1914 he vanished on a trip to Mexico.

The work for which he is best know, The Devil’s Dictionary, was first published in 1906. Bierce also published volumes of short stories. His Tales of Soldiers and Civilians (1891) represents some of the finest writing to come out of the Civil War. Bierce’s stories of the supernatural, collected in Can Such Things Be? (1893), established him as one of the leading American authors of supernatural fiction.

This volume gathers together for the first time the 850 fables written by Bierce over his forty-year career, including more than 400 fables never reprinted from the magazines and newspapers in which they originally appeared.

Bierce’s fables are distinguished for their biting wit and their cynical reflection of the political and social events of his time. Local and national political figures; corrupt lawyers, judges, and clergymen; and even incidents in the Spanish-American War are all mercilessly lampooned. The fables not only testify to Bierce’s hatred of “hypocrisy, cant, and all sham” but provide a window into late nineteenth-century American society. S. T. Joshi has provided extensive commentary explaining historical and literary references in the fables.

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Edward Lear's Nonsense Birds
Edward Lear
Bodleian Library Publishing, 2013
The Stripy Bird. The Scroobius Bird. The Obsequious Ornamental Ostrich who wore boots to keep his feet quite dry. Of all the animals that sprang from the idiosyncratic imagination of Edward Lear, few feature as frequently as birds, which appear throughout his work, from the flamboyant flock in the Nonsense Alphabet to the quirky avian characters of his limericks, stories, and songs. Lear drew himself as a bird on numerous occasions. In a popular self-portrait—later reproduced on a postage stamp—Lear even represented himself as a portly, bespectacled bird.

Edward Lear’s Nonsense Birds collects more than sixty of Lear’s bird illustrations from across his entire body of work. Often, the birds have hilariously human characteristics. There is, for instance, a Good-Natured Grey Gull, a Hasty Hen, and a Querulous Quail. The Judicious Jay is chiefly concerned with good grooming. The Vicious Vulture, meanwhile, turns out to be a wordsmith whose verses on vellum celebrate veal. Each bird is endowed with a unique personality, while collectively they form a wonderfully amusing flock. Also included are a series of twenty-four hand-colored illustrations.

Bright and beautifully illustrated, this book will make a perfect gift for children of all ages and will also be welcomed by all who love Lear’s work or are interested in learning more about his fascination with birds.
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In-House Weddings
Bohumil Hrabal
Northwestern University Press, 2007
Inspired by “Mrs. Tolstoy and Mrs. Dostoevsky, whose biographies about their husbands have now been published in Prague,” Bohumil Hrabal decided to produce his own autobiographical work, ostensibly fiction, from his wife’s point of view. He would write, he said, “not a putdown about myself, but a little bit of how it all was, that marriage of ours, with myself as a jewel and adornment of our life together.”

The task, taken up by such a rogue comic talent, could be nothing other than strangely delightful; and in In-House Weddings, the first of the trilogy that Hrabal produced, we meet the author through the eyes of his wife Eliska. She narrates his life from his upbringing in Nymburk through his work as a dispatcher in a train station and then in a scrap paper plant, his first publication, his trouble with the authorities, and his association with notable artists and authors such as Jiri Kolar, Vladimir Boudnik, and Arnost Lustig. Hrabal’s bohemian life was itself a source of great interest to the Czech public; transmuted here, it is even more compelling, a wry portrait of artistic life in postwar Eastern Europe and a telling reflection on how such a life might be recast in the light of literary brilliance.
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Momus
Leon Battista AlbertiEnglish translation by Sarah KnightLatin text edited by Virginia Brown and Sarah Knight
Harvard University Press, 2003
Momus is the most ambitious literary creation of Leon Battista Alberti, the famous humanist-scientist-artist and "universal man" of the Italian Renaissance. In this dark comedy, written around 1450, Alberti charts the lively fortunes of his anti-hero Momus, the unscrupulous and vitriolic god of criticism. Alberti deploys his singular erudition and wit to satirize subjects from court life and politics to philosophy and intellectuals, from grand architectural designs to human and divine folly. The possible contemporary resonance of Alberti's satire—read variously as a humanist roman-à-clef and as a veiled mockery of the mid-Quattrocento papacy—is among its most intriguing aspects. While his more famous books on architecture, painting, and family life have long been regarded as indispensable to a study of Renaissance culture, Momus has recently attracted increasing attention from scholars as a work anticipating the realism of Machiavelli and the satiric wit of Erasmus. This edition provides a new Latin text, the first to be based on the two earliest manuscripts, both corrected by Alberti himself, and includes the first full translation into English.
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Oh, Serafina!
A Fable of Ecology, Lunacy, and Love
Giuseppe Berto
Rutgers University Press, 2023
Heir to the FIBA button factory in Lombardy, Augustus is profiting from Italy’s postwar industrial boom. Yet the dreamy young man is far from your stereotypical industrialist. He is less interested in making money than in talking to the birds in the surrounding garden and in making love to a beautiful factory worker named Palmira. But when the money-hungry Palmira schemes to have him institutionalized, Augustus finds a new love among his fellow mental patients: flute-playing flower child Serafina. Can Augustus and Serafina find a way to break free and express their love of each other and of nature in this crazy world? 
 
Newly translated into English, Giuseppe Berto’s charming 1973 novel Oh, Serafina! was one of the first works of Italian literature to deal with ecological themes while also questioning the destructive effects of industrial capitalism, the many forms spirituality might take, and the ways our society defines madness. This translation includes a foreword from literary scholar Matteo Gilebbi that provides biographical, historical, and philosophical context for appreciating this whimsical fable of ecology, lunacy, and love. 
 
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Ostrich
(A Comic Novel)
Michael A. Thomas
University of Nevada Press, 2000
Nevada sheep rancher Sabine Eckleberry’s life is in shambles. His wife has decamped to Arizona to run a dog-grooming business; his youngest daughter needs a husband; his irrepressible son VJ wants to turn the ranch into an ostrich-breeding operation; and the wild burros he has adopted to guard his sheep can’t get along with their charges. Now his family and friends are about to descend on the ranch to celebrate Sabine’s seventy-second birthday. The ranch is soon a chaos of budding and blighted romances, mistaken identities, rampaging poodles, runaway sheep, schemes of seduction and sudden wealth, and a newly hatched ostrich chick in search of love. Novelist Michael A. Thomas has created a cast of memorable human characters, a supporting cast of realistic animal personalities, and a colorful setting in Nevada’s rangeland. His keen ear for dialogue and his perfect timing support a plot as complicated and satisfying as a Shakespearean comedy.
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Performance Art
Stories
David Kranes
University of Nevada Press, 2021
Part of our socialization is the urge-to-perform. We perform images of ourselves for others. If we are successful, we are called on to perform. For some, the urge is so great and the talent sufficient, that we become performers. Performance Art us a book about performers and performances which are extreme. Most of these stories and their performers and performances are at the edge of dream.
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Pictures from an Institution
A Comedy
Randall Jarrell
University of Chicago Press, 2010

Beneath the unassuming surface of a progressive women’s college lurks a world of intellectual pride and pomposity awaiting devastation by the pens of two brilliant and appalling wits. Randall Jarrell’s classic novel was originally published to overwhelming critical acclaim in 1954, forging a new standard for campus satire—and instantly yielding comparisons to Dorothy Parker’s razor-sharp barbs. Like his fictional nemesis, Jarrell cuts through the earnest conversations at Benton College—mischievously, but with mischief nowhere more wicked than when crusading against the vitriolic heroine herself.

“A most literate account of a group of most literate people by a writer of power. . . . A delight of true understanding.”—Wallace Stevens

“I’m greatly impressed by the real fun, the incisive satire, the closeness of observation, and in the end by a kind of sympathy and human warmth. It’s a remarkable book.”—Robert Penn Warren

“Move over Dorothy Parker. Pictures . . . is less a novel than a series of poisonous portraits, set pieces, and endlessly quotable put-downs. Read it less for plot than sharp satire, Jarrell’s forte.”—Mary Welp

“One of the wittiest books of modern times.”—New York Times

“[T]he father of the modern campus novel, and the wittiest of them all. Extraordinary to think that ‘political correctness’ was so deliciously dissected 50 years ago.”—Noel Malcolm, Sunday Telegraph

“A sustained exhibition of wit in the great tradition. . . . Immensely and very devastatingly shrewd.”—Edmund Fuller, Saturday Review

“[A] work of fiction, and a dizzying and brilliant work of social and literary criticism. Not only ‘a unique and serious joke-book,’ as Lowell called it, but also a meditation made up of epigrams.”—Michael Wood

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Ruse and Wit
The Humorous in Arabic, Persian, and Turkish Narrative
Dominic Parviz Brookshaw
Harvard University Press, 2012
The essays in Ruse and Wit examine in detail a wide range of texts (from nonsensical prose, to ribald poetry, titillating anecdotes, edifying plays, and journalistic satire) that span the best part of a millennium of humorous and satirical writing in the Islamic world, from classical Arabic to medieval and modern Persian, and Ottoman Turkish (and by extension Modern Greek). While acknowledging significant elements of continuity in the humorous across distinct languages, divergent time periods, and disparate geographical regions, the authors have not shied away from the particular and the specific. When viewed collectively, the findings presented in the essays collected here underscore the belief that humor as evidenced in Arabic, Persian, and Turkish narrative is a culturally modulated phenomenon, one that demands to be examined with reference to its historical framework and one that, in turn, communicates as much about those who produced humor as it does about those who enjoyed it.
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Saturnin
Zdenek Jirotka
Karolinum Press, 2016

On its initial publication in Czech in 1942, Saturnin was a best seller, its gentle satire offering an unexpected—if temporary—reprieve from the grim reality of the German occupation. In the years since, the novel has been hailed as a classic of Czech literature, and this translation makes it available to English-language readers for the first time—which is entirely appropriate, for author Zdeněk Jirotka clearly modeled his light comedy on the English masters Jerome K. Jerome and P. G. Wodehouse. The novel’s main character, Saturnin, a “gentleman’s gentleman” who obviously owes a debt to Wodehouse’s beloved Jeeves, wages a constant battle to protect his master from romantic disaster and intrusive relatives, such as Aunt Catherine, the “Prancing Dictionary of Slavic Proverbs.” Saturnin will warm the heart of any fan of literary comedy.

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Saturnin
Zdenek Jirotka
Karolinum Press, 2013

On its initial publication in Czech in 1942, Saturnin was a best seller, its gentle satire offering an unexpected—if temporary—reprieve from the grim reality of the German occupation. In the years since, the novel has been hailed as a classic of Czech literature, and this translation makes it available to English-language readers for the first time—which is entirely appropriate, for author Zdeněk Jirotka clearly modeled his light comedy on the English masters Jerome K. Jerome and P. G. Wodehouse. The novel’s main character, Saturnin, a “gentleman’s gentleman” who obviously owes a debt to Wodehouse’s beloved Jeeves, wages a constant battle to protect his master from romantic disaster and intrusive relatives, such as Aunt Catherine, the “Prancing Dictionary of Slavic Proverbs.” Saturnin will warm the heart of any fan of literary comedy.

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Slime Line
A Novel
Jake Maynard
West Virginia University Press, 2024
A trippy and darkly funny portrait of the commercial fishing industry, Slime Line is the tragicomic yarn of one troubled college dropout’s desperate attempts to remake himself into a hard-nosed working man.

In the wake of his father’s death, Garrett Deaver washes up at a salmon processing plant in his dad’s old stomping grounds of Alaska. There, he renames himself Beaver—because just like a beaver, he’s “an industrious motherfucker”— and vows to become a supervisor at Klak Fancy Salmon, LLC. But moving up within the industry’s seasonal underclass is anything but simple, and soon he finds himself with real, and imagined, enemies at the plant. As amphetamines scramble his sense of reality, and secrets about his father’s life are revealed, the job he’d hoped would bring him salvation threatens to leave him broke, alone, and—maybe even literally—underwater.
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So Much Nonsense
Edward Lear
Bodleian Library Publishing, 2007
The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat
They dined on mince, and slices of quince
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
The moon,
The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.
 
The Owl and the Pussycat is only the most familiar of Edward Lear’s numerous nonsense verses, which have delighted millions worldwide for the last two centuries. Now his beloved verse and drawings are compiled here in a handsomely produced volume of classic material.

Leariana runs rampant in this enchanting treasury; readers encounter such indelible Lear creations as “snail mail,” while drawings of the Stripy Bird and images of the heroic and irrepressible Foss in heraldic poses are scattered throughout. Lear’s zany illustrations are reproduced here in their full vibrancy, and the goofily delightful art, including his illustrated nonsense alphabets, infuses Lear’s fanciful phrases and humorously incomprehensible limericks with their original liveliness and irresistible spirit.   Rarely has the powerful charm and timeless appeal of Edward Lear’s work been available in such a beautifully produced edition, and So Much Nonsense is a gift that will unleash the imaginations of young and old alike.
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Stories of Chicago
George Ade
University of Illinois Press, 1941
The stories of George Ade are energetic, detailed, and affectionate slices of the social life of Chicago in the Gay Nineties. Originally appearing in the Chicago Record between 1893 and 1900, they range from candid character sketches and snapshots of everyday street scenes to fiction and fantasies drawing on the endless stream of inspiration the bustling city provided.
 
Ade was hailed by such contemporaries as Mark Twain, H. L. Mencken, and William Dean Howells, and the stories contained in this volume showcase the full spectrum of his skills: his keen eye for the absurd and sublime moments of daily urban life, his ear for the vernacular, his shrewd understanding of the Midwestern character, and above all his firm belief that all of human life was worthy literary subject matter.
 
This volume includes many lively and evocative drawings by John T. McCutcheon, Ade's college classmate and friend who came to be known as "the Dean of American Cartoonists." Also included is an introduction by Franklin J. Meine, incorporating interviews with Ade and letters from John McCutcheon, Mark Twain, and Ade's managing editor, Charles H. Dennis.
 
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Tales from the Kingdom of Lailonia and The Key to Heaven
Leszek Kolakowski
University of Chicago Press, 1989
This volume contains two unusual and appealing satirical works by the well-known European philosopher Kolakowski. The first, Tales from the Kingdom of Lailonia, is set in a fictional land. Each story illustrates some aspect of human inability to come to terms with imperfection, infinitude, history, and nature. The second, The Key to Heaven, is a collection of seventeen biblical tales from the Old Testament told in such a way that the story and the moral play off each other to illustrate political, moral, or existential foibles and follies.
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View
Glen Pourciau
Four Way Books, 2017
These new stories from Iowa Short Fiction Award–winner Pourciau reveal the day-to-day drama of various characters through their interior monologues. As readers become engaged in a character’s viewpoint and voice, they may begin to see the story from a different perspective than the narrator’s. The ground shifts as the reader questions the reliability of the narrator’s single point of view.
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We Were a Handful
Karel Polácek
Karolinum Press, 2007

A favorite work of Czech humor, We Were a Handful depicts the adventures of five boys from a small Czech town through the diary of Petr Bajza, the grocer’s son. Written by Karel Poláček at the height of World War II before his deportation to Auschwitz in 1944, this book draws on the happier years of Poláček’s own childhood as inspiration. As we look upon the world through Petr’s eyes, we, too, marvel at the incomprehensible world of grownups; join in fights between gangs of neighborhood kids; and laugh at the charming language of boys, a major source of the book’s humor. This translation at last offers English-language readers the opportunity to share in Petr’s (and Poláček’s) childhood and reminds us that joy and laughter are possible even in the darkest times.

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We Were a Handful
Karel Polácek
Karolinum Press, 2007

A favorite work of Czech humor, We Were a Handful depicts the adventures of five boys from a small Czech town through the diary of Petr Bajza, the grocer’s son. Written by Karel Poláček at the height of World War II before his deportation to Auschwitz in 1944, this book draws on the happier years of Poláček’s own childhood as inspiration. As we look upon the world through Petr’s eyes, we, too, marvel at the incomprehensible world of grownups; join in fights between gangs of neighborhood kids; and laugh at the charming language of boys, a major source of the book’s humor. This translation at last offers English-language readers the opportunity to share in Petr’s (and Poláček’s) childhood and reminds us that joy and laughter are possible even in the darkest times.

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