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Books–Big trouble, by Dave Barry January 15, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in Books, Other.

When I was a teenager in California I thought that Dave Barry’s newspaper columns were the funniest things in the world.  I stopped reading them for a while in college, and found later on that they rambled around too much with what seemed like inside-jokes, and were in any case too centered on toilet humor to interest me.  I have no idea whether the columns changed, or whether it was my own tastes that had changed.

So I was troubled to see Big Trouble in my Christmas stocking, thinking it would be one of those books you read just to be polite.  It was something worse, I’m afraid.  It is one of those books you’ll read and find it hard to tell anyone about it. 

Recently I was reading a blog (somebody whom I think is in my blogroll, but I couldn’t find the entry and I don’t remember who it was for certain) which commented on the guilty pleasure of reading David Sedaris.  Friends, there is nothing to feel guilty about reading David Sedaris.  That stuff’s just wicked funny, and incredibly well-written.  But Dave Barry, . . . try telling the people at the English Department faculty party about that one. 

But let me explain a little.  It is as if the effort of forcing his writing to take the form of a story–with characters, a beginning, middle, and end, that actually takes place somewhere–channeled his humor in a more readable direction.  It is like watching a movie starring Robin Williams but directed and written by someone else, compared to simply watching Robin Williams associate freely on stage (on cocaine).  It makes Barry readable and funny once again.

I’m tried to find a good example, but Barry’s humor is not housed in individual sentences.  It is in the set-up and execution of jokes over a series of pages and in characterization. If you are looking for a funny book that will take about three hours to read, you might take a second look at Barry’s fiction. 


1. strugglingwriter - January 15, 2007

That’s interesting. I have to admit that I am a Dave Barry fan. I enjoyed his column when it was in the newspaper. His is in semi-retirement I believe. I may have to check out this book.Did you see the movie based on this book? It stars Tim Allen and also has a few other “name” people such as Patrick Warburton(Puddy from Seinfield) and Jason Lee. I’m sure the critics hated it and I don’t think it did very well at the box office, but it was a decent rental, though I don’t know what my opinion would be if I read the book first.

2. caveblogem - January 15, 2007

Strugglingwriter, I haven’t even seen Barry’s column in many, many years. When I lived in Washington (State) 1992-1999, our local paper didn’t carry it. The Boston Globe doesn’t either. I wondered if he was still doing his schtick.

I hadn’t heard about the movie either. I’ll see if Netflix has it. I don’t know who “Puddy” from Seinfeld was, either, though. When did I become so “out of it?”

3. Maht - January 16, 2007

I agree that Barry is best when he has boundaries. Someone decided I needed “Dave Barry Slept Here,” his mock-history book, when I graduated high school. And I still enjoy that one every now and then. Never tried his fiction, though, as his columns tend to irritate me. Maybe I will now.

The movie referenced above is a decent enough rental, but probably best viewed with diminished expectations.

4. caveblogem - January 16, 2007


“Boundaries,” that’s the word I was looking for. There is a patronizing element to it that is probably appropriate. The book is also served best with diminished expectations.

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