Tuesday, March 24, 2009
The Best American Humorous Short Stories edited by Robert N. Linscott
When I was in 6th grade, Sr. Marina, SSND (Catholic school survivors will recognize those initials), asked me to read a story aloud from our class reader. My test was to pronounce the word “zephyr,” and when I got it right, she asked me if I knew what it meant. I must have read it somewhere, because I said, “a warm wind.” I loved reading aloud, and the story was so funny, I had a hard time reading over the class’ laughter. I have tried to find that story, and this Modern Library edition published in 1945 represents my latest effort in that search.
Many of the stories include dialect and slang difficult to decipher. A few I knew well, such as “Ransom of Red Chief” by O. Henry. All the great humorists of the first half of the 20th century are here. A lot of dated and “un-PC” humor but good laughs still abound. Some sound like routines from an old Marx Brothers’ film, and some are downright hilarious. The two by Ring Lardner, “Mr. and Mrs. Fix It” and “Three Without Doubled,” had me in stitches. I had forgotten how funny Lardner’s stories could be.
My story involving a camping trip, mosquitoes, and bears (alas, all I remember) does not live in this book. The search continues. 4 stars