I have a feeling George Mikes would have appreciated this mis-translation. I'm almost done reading his book, Laughing Matter, published in 1971. I'm fairly certain that this particular copy has been sitting in the Lincoln Public Library since 1971. It has that musty sweet book smell that all decomposing books acquire when they've been standing inexhaustibly on a shelf that long. I must admit, it's a refreshing change from reading on the crisp, fingerprinted screen of my iPad.
But back to Mikes. I was a foreign exchange student in Czechoslovakia and Hungary in 1992. Yes, it was actually called Czechoslovakia through the end of 1992. On January 1, 1993, the country became the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Anyway, since then, I have appreciated Eastern European literature and humor, and George Mikes is a real treasure. Here's a joke from page 92 of Laughing Matter:
Green meets his friend, Brown, who asks him how he is.
"Terrible. Desperate," replies Green, and goes on to tell Brown that he wets the bed--a nasty habit he cannot get rid of, and which is ruining his marriage...and his nerves.
"But why don't you go to a psychoanalyst?" Brown asks him. Green is rather reluctant but Brown talks him into it.
Six months later they meet again and a glance at Green is enough to show that now he is a happy man.
"So you went to the psychoanalyst?" says Brown.
"Yes, I did."
"Did he help you?"
"Very much so."
"You don't wet the bed anymore, then?"
"Yes, I still do. But now I am proud of it."
If you can find a copy of Mikes' Laughing Matter, I highly recommend it. If you find a 1971 copy, sniff that history a little bit every few pages.
I found a fun blog post this morning by Paul Angone on Joe Bunting's blog, The Write Practice. Paul gives his four commandments to funny writing:
1. Thou Shalt Not Worry About Offending
2. Thou Shalt Pay Attention to the Mundane
3. Thou Shalt Take Cliches to the Extreme
4. Thou Shalt Use Metaphors and Similes Like the Bubonic Plague.
As a writer, I especially like this last one, and I want to dedicate a plague-like metaphor to my 13-year-old. "He ran like a 13-year-old whose mother is about to yell "I LOVE YOU" out the car window in front of Irving Middle School." Not that such a situation has ever happened in our family...