Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty, by Tony Hoagland


First off, how great is that title? I laughed out loud when I saw it. Such a great combination of humor, ordinary things, and Japanese poetic traditions. Plus, my #1 son is finally getting a Honda like the rest of us, so I guess I’ve founded a Honda dynasty of my own, however late he is coming to it.

I love Hoagland’s poems. He uses the things of this world to craft seemingly simple poems, poems that always leave me staring off into the distance thinking new thoughts. I’ve written before about his work.

Here we have a stroll through a mall food court, a cement truck, and “A middle-aged man / who cannot make love to his wife”. We have fathers and foghorns and teaching children to eat slugs. But what we really have are our buried emotions surprised into the light, like the grubs and bugs revealed when a “slab of bark” is “pried off”.

In “Plastics’ he takes us through many manifestations of our relationship with plastic, throwing in these thought-provoking lines: “you could mull over the ethics of enslaving matter / even while feeling admiration for the genius it takes / to persuade a molecule to become part of a casserole container.” Then he brings it in to the personal, to a couple at a table in the park, and the insinuation of the nature of plastic into our relationships.

My favorite poem in the collection is “Demolition”. I love the way it starts off, with men watching a building being demolished, “swivel chairs and lathe / crashing and bashing into giant bins five floors below.” Having an fun relationship with a three-year-old boy these days, I totally get how the crowd of men stands “in a little cluster of hypnotized testosterone.”

But it’s really where he goes from there, the emotions he pulls up and the images he uses to push them into not just my brain but my heart.

We are all unincorporated, walking the line between loneliness and linked. I love getting the man’s point of view, a man who is respectful of women but not above calling out the changes in an aging beloved. I love the path he has found between feminism and manhood, between this world and what might transcend it.

In poems I look for mystery just as much as the next person. I want the condensed discernment of haiku and tanka. But there is a place in the poetic firmament for Hoagland’s work as well. These are poems that anyone may find themselves in, man or woman, poetry novice or expert. Check them out.

Who is your favorite poet?

After I’m Gone, by Laura Lippman

After I'm Gone

A new novel from Lippman is always cause for rejoicing. She has a series of crime novels featuring Tess Monaghan and probably just as many stand-alone crime novels, all of them excellent reads. I call them crime novels; they are certainly mysteries and I make no apologies for loving that genre. However, in these books, what I value more than the puzzle demanding a solution are the story structure and psychological depth. Well, also that they usually take place in Baltimore, a city I know well.

Here, we meet five women who are circling around an empty space in the center of their lives. Felix Brewer, a bookmaker with an office above a club on Baltimore’s notorious Block, has vanished. He’s a self-made man, bursting with confidence and entrepreneurial energy who has run into legal trouble and, facing a prison sentence, disappears in 1976.

He leaves behind his beloved wife, Bambi, and three daughters, as well as his young mistress, Julie, a dancer at the club. As one character remarks, it is the wife who has the stripper name and the stripper who has the country club name, though of course Julie calls herself a hostess. I may not have the reference exactly right. Acing the Bechdel Test, Lippman’s main concern is these five women and how they fare in Felix’s absence, all of them expecting him to return any moment.

The story moves around in time, part of it set in the present of 2012 when a Sandy Sanchez, a retired detective who acts as a consultant for the Baltimore Police Department, is given Julie’s murder as a cold case. Julie had disappeared in 1986 and her remains were found in 2001 in Leakin Park, a popular dumping ground due to its many rough and overgrown areas.

The rest of the story takes us back to Felix and Bambi’s meeting, to the events around Felix’s disappearance, and other touchpoints. It should be confusing, but isn’t. Lippman always comes back to Sandy’s investigation, our understanding enriched by whatever story from the past we’ve been treated to.

I loved getting to know these characters. While it raises my ire, I completely understood Felix’s adoration of Bambi and his daughters while having many girlfriends on the side, including a long-term relationship with Julie. I also felt Julie’s pain as she drives past the home Felix shares with Bambi, and her hopes for the future. I loved the daughters: Linda who is practical and bossy, Rachel who keeps everyone’s secrets, and Michelle, the baby who has her mother’s beauty. As we move around in time, we see the women these girls become, and that to me was the most fascinating, the changes they go through.

I was also interested by some of the insights into what it might mean for a woman to be outstandingly beautiful, as Bambi and Michelle are, and what elements other than the physical contribute to that beauty. And, being always interested in friendships between women, I appreciated the subtle movements in Bambi’s relationship with her best friend, Lorraine.

Having recently read Margo Christie’s excellent novel These Days, based on her own experiences working at a club on the Block, I was hoping for more detail about Julie’s and Felix’s work. However, I understand why Lippman chose not to go there, and certainly her choice makes for a better, tighter story.

I’ve learned that if there’s a new Lippman novel in the house, I can forget about getting anything else done until I’ve finished it. I highly recommend this, as well as all of Lippman’s novels.

Have you read any novels recently that passed the Bechdel Test?

West of Sunset, by Stewart O’Nan

West of Sunset

The curse of early success: we may say we’re willing to risk it, but there are certainly plenty of cautionary tales. The prime example may be the life of F. Scott Fitzgerald. The immense success of his first novel, This Side of Paradise, made him the golden boy of the 1920s. Along with his wife, Zelda, Fitzgerald danced and drank and partied up a storm.

The two were known for crazy, reckless stunts. But all of those drunken escapades left little time for writing. For a while, he kept going by selling stories to magazines, but that market almost completely dried up after the economy crashed in 1929. His other novels, including The Great Gatsby, didn’t sell well at the time.

This novel starts in 1937 with Scott holed up in a rundown hotel near the North Carolina asylum where Zelda resides. I’ve read and speculated a lot about Zelda’s supposed schizophrenia–there have been too many women diagnosed as insane for nothing more than independent thinking–but O’Nan doesn’t go there. His Zelda sees visions of Michael the Archangel and alternates periods of clarity with violent attacks on those around her.

O’Nan doesn’t let her husband off the hook either. Scott cannot escape from his alcoholism; worse than that, he is a mean drunk.

Scott can’t afford Zelda’s hospital fees, so, like many other writers at the time like his friend Dorothy Parker, he gives in and moves to Hollywood to write for MGM. However, the film work isn’t steady, and Zelda is not well enough to leave the hospital where the bills continue to mount. Worry about money percolates throughout this novel of Fitzgerald’s final three years.

Then at a party he sees a woman who reminds him so much of Zelda that he thinks his friends are playing a trick on him. Sheilah Graham is a gossip columnist, engaged to an English aristocrat. The portrait of her that eventually emerges helps me finally understand why she would fall for his faded charms.

O’Nan is a captivating writer, long one of my favorites. I first encountered his writing when I casually picked up a book a friend had left on a table, the bookmark clear proof that he hadn’t finished it. Yet, I’m ashamed to say that I was so mesmerized by the first page that I stole the book and only returned it to my mystified friend the next day, confessing my disgraceful crime.

Though I was already familiar with the story of those years from biographies, memoirs, and other research, O’Nan brings the writer and his friends to life. It’s all here: parties with Bogart and other stars, trial reunions with Zelda, attempts at normalcy for visits by daughter Scottie, drunken fights, determined “cures”. O’Nan walks a delicate tightrope, never excusing Scott’s excesses, but convincingly showing us the world from Scott’s point of view. After every failure, he returned to writing, trying to earn the necessary money, and drinking only cola.

Sometimes I wonder if his success did have much to do with the disastrous arc of his 44 years. His one-time friend, Hemingway, blamed Zelda for Scott’s drinking and reckless behavior However, Scott’s alcoholism started before that, when he was in college. Others have blamed the times: for many people Scott and Zelda epitomized the Jazz Age. I wonder, though, if his appetite for a wild and hedonistic life would have carried him to the same end no matter when he’d been born.

What can we know of another person? A good writer helps unravel the mystery. Read O’Nan’s absorbing novel, even if you think you already know the story.

What did you think of The Great Gatsby the first time you read it?

The Children Act, by Ian McEwan

children act

This very short novel begins with a crisis in the stable and ordered life of High Court Judge Fiona Maye, a specialist in Family Law. Childless herself and partner in a long and comfortably loving marriage, Fiona finds the deep pleasure of her life, the moments when she loses herself, in sorting out tangled cases and writing opinions that can themselves become standard references for later cases.

Her superior view from the bench is challenged when her husband informs her that he is embarking on an affair. He says that he still loves her but wants one more passionate adventure before he dies, complaining that their sex life has waned. Indeed, when challenged, she cannot remember when they last had sex. When she refuses to go along with his scheme, he sneaks out of the house with a suitcase he’d packed before talking with her, thus giving the lie to his grand protestations of honesty and openness.

At the same time, Fiona is confronted with a challenging case of a young man only a few months shy of his eighteenth birthday stricken with leukemia. He and his parents are Jehovah’s Witnesses and thus are refusing the blood transfusions that are almost certainly required to save his life. The hospital asks the court, in the person of Fiona, to intervene.

I think that McEwan is a marvelous writer, though I’ve found his books to be uneven, some excellent and some duds. Yet, while I appreciate his plotting and his prose, I cannot warm to his characters. Some I actively dislike while some, like Fiona, seem held at such a distance, perhaps from themselves as well as from me, that I cannot begin to care what happens to them.

In this case, I rather wanted to cheer for Fiona in her new single life, but she quickly knuckles under, allowing Peter to return after mere days. I enjoyed reading about the various court cases, but found the story of the Jehovah’s Witness boy and his reaction to her ruling unrealistic. I felt that the characters were being moved about like chess pieces to suit the plot rather than the plot growing out of the characters.

I will say that I was happy the story did not start off with a show-off set piece, like a home invasion or balloon accident. I also loved the descriptions of the various musical bits, whether a performance or an appreciation of a recording. And I appreciated the tightness of the prose. I’ve become rather annoyed with sprawling novels that betray the lack of an editor’s hand. Here, we charge through the story and a variety of cases with alacrity yet without sacrificing necessary detail.

I feared this would become a story about religion, but it is not. It is a story about the degree of responsibility we bear for those whom we encounter in our lives, whether chosen or accidental. It is a story about work, which I love to see, work that absorbs us and brings out the best in us.

Have you read a novel centered on the protagonist’s working life?

Bury Your Dead, by Louise Penny

bury your dead

I read a lot of mysteries. It’s not that I am bloodthirsty, but rather that I love the puzzle of the plot and the psychological depth of the characters. Plus a lot of the best novel writing today is being done in mysteries. I especially like finding a good series. When the same handful of characters return in book after book, the author has the opportunity to dig ever more deeply into them, revealing so much more of them over time, allowing them to change in unexpected ways.

Not every author takes advantage of that opportunity, of course. I’m pleased to say that Louise Penny does.

I enjoyed Penny’s first book, Still Life, featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Quebec. However, the real star of that book is the small village of Three Pines, a peaceful place near the Vermont border, not shown on any map, full of artists and eccentrics.

Although wary of the Murder She Wrote pitfall, where way too many murders must happen in small town to keep the detective busy, I thought the book promising enough to read on. I blogged about her second and third books, chronicling my increasing disappointment with the flat characters. Great suspense, wonderful plots, but the characters were too simplistic—all good or all bad—and unchanging.

Then a friend encouraged me to try some of the more recent books. I’m thrilled to report that my friend was right. The later books have the psychological shading that I crave. The core characters are each given a chance to step into the spotlight and reveal their dark corners, their secrets and dreams.

This book in particular, Bury Your Dead, is a masterpiece. Penny takes on the incredible challenge of weaving together three stories and succeeds in playing them off against each other and bringing each to a satisfactory conclusion.

Gamache is visiting Quebec City during the Winter Carnival, recovering physically and emotionally from a recent investigation. Each day he visits the quiet, almost deserted Literary and Historical Society, a bastion of Quebec City’s English-speaking residents, where he examines the dusty tomes pursuing a theory he has about the 1759 Battle of Quebec. However, when a body is found in the basement, a murder that could reignite the fury of Francophone Quebec, he is pulled into the investigation.

At the same time, he is receiving daily letters from one of his friends back in Three Pines, begging him to reopen the case solved in the previous book, The Brutal Telling. And finally, there is the recent investigation, the one that went so wrong. I confess it was this third story that kept me up all night finishing the book. The events took place in the gap between the two books, and I was desperate to find out what had happened.

Even better than this masterful intertwining of three plots are the subtleties of characterisation. Gamache and his second in command, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, reveal unexpected sides of themselves. This is most effectively done through their interactions with others. We see Gamache not only with his team and the suspects, but also with his own mentor, Émile Comeau. We see Jean-Guy take on the inhabitants of Three Pines without Gamache to run interference.

Altogether, a most satisfying read and one I highly recommend. While it is generally best to read a series in order, I give you permission to jump around a bit. But don’t skip over this book.

Is there a mystery series that you particularly like?

Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry, Essays by Jane Hirshfield

9 Gates

I’ve been trying to make a dent in the stack of writing craft books that threaten to overwhelm my bookshelves despite all my resolutions not to acquire any more of them. However, this week I’ve gone back to reread this lovely book by Jane Hirschfield. The nine essays contain so much depth and beauty that I’m sure I’ll be back to savor them many more times.

Hirschfield explores the magic of poetry, pulling back the curtain to show what makes some poems work. Her insights leave space for the imagination, equally inspiring for poetry readers and those who write.

In the first essay, “Poetry and the Mind of Concentration”, she looks at concentration as the starting point of a good poem, calling it “a particular state of awareness”. She goes deeper and deeper into that concept, looking at how we invite concentration, the paths we follow, what we find. “In the wholeheartedness of concentration, world and self begin to cohere.” She speaks of the role of difficulty, the way resistance and tension shape the work, and goes on to examine six essential forms of concentration: music, rhetoric, image, emotion, story, and voice. Using poems by Yeats, Olds, Cavafy, and others, Hirshfield seduces our understanding.

Since trying my hand at translation, I was fascinated by “The World Is Large and Full of Noises: Thoughts on Translation”. Lauding the curiosity and open heart that makes us “desire to learn what lives within the incomprehensible speech of others”, Hirshfield looks at the central issue: “where does a poem’s true being reside?” I initially wanted to keep my translations as close to the literal meaning of the original as possible rather than writing my own poem inspired by it. However, I found my poetic sensibility taking over and leading me irresistibly to a middle ground. Her care in this essay to show the spectrum and journey of translation reminds me of Nineteen Ways of Looking at Wang Wei, by Eliot Weinberger and Octavio Paz.

My favorite essay is “The Myriad Leaves of Words”. I’m grateful to Hirshfield for sharing her insights into Japanese poetry, especially the way she draws out the cultural differences and their effects. I keep coming back to some of the Japanese concepts she describes, like shin which “includes both the realms of the mind and that of the feeling heart”, and some of the techniques, such as the kakekotoba, or pivot word, one that carries two meanings. Lately I’ve been working a lot with haiku and tanka. I appreciate learning the Japanese words for some of the concepts, such as kigo for the season-indicating word and mujō for transience.

Most of all, though, Hirshfield has helped my understand the source of my obsession with these forms and why they–and poetry in general–occupy a central space in my life.

What book have you read that has made you enthusiastic about reading poetry?

An Officer and a Spy, by Robert Harris


I was doubtful when one of the owners of my local indie bookstore urged this book on me. However, she’d never steered me wrong before, so I succumbed. It’s a fictional retelling of the Dreyfus affair, a shameful chapter in France’s history and one which I thought I knew a lot about. Ha! After reading this absorbing book I realise that I only knew the barest outline of the story.

In December 1894 Alfred Dreyfus was convicted of selling French military secrets to Germany. The Army had learned that they had a traitor in their ranks and quickly settled on Dreyfus, an officer in the French army of Jewish descent, as the guilty party. Dreyfus was sent to Devil’s Island off the coast of Africa, where he was the only prisoner and held under appalling conditions for five years.

While the Dreyfus affair is generally considered a blatant example of anti-Semitism, there’s more to the story. This fascinating novel details the missteps and resulting coverups and persecutions. It introduces us to our narrator, Georges Picquart, a career Army man who is unexpectedly named the head of counter-espionage one year after Dreyfus’s conviction. Initially convinced of the man’s guilt, Picquart gradually becomes persuaded by the weight of evidence that the real traitor is someone else. Shocked by the obviously fabricated evidence, he realises that if he doesn’t back down his career and even his life may be in danger.

The author introduces us to a large cast of characters, but each is so vividly drawn that that I didn’t have to refer to the Dramatis Personae in the front of the book. And the suspense generated is so powerful that—despite knowing the historical outcome—I couldn’t bear to stop reading.

Picquart’s dilemma, weighing his personal sense of honour against the heavy chains of conformity, couldn’t be more apt. How many people today would have the integrity to stand up to their superiors? It’s so easy to be a yes-man. How many dirty tricks have we seen come to light in the halls of power, and how many more are there that we never see?

The people in this story are all too human. They are not monsters, though many do monstrous things. Robert Harris has done the hard work of delving deeply into each one and excavating his or her motives. I can’t remember where I first heard this piece of wisdom for aspiring writers, probably from David Corbett: Even the villain thinks that he is the hero of his story. Learning why these people behave as they do makes this story spectacular and human and deeply moving.

Like my bookstore owner, I will be urging this book on everyone I know.

What novel have you read that helped you understand a historical event?

Glaciers, by Alexis M. Smith


Sometimes you want a big, fat novel; sometimes you want a small, quiet one. Only 112 short pages, Smith’s novel follows a young woman during a single day. Twenty-something Isabel is many things: a thrift-store aficionado, a librarian who repairs damaged books, a child of divorced parents, a resident of Portland, Oregon. But most of all she is a person whose imagination is both deep and wide.

She collects postcards of cities around the world. Having grown up in an isolated cabin in Alaska, she is fascinated by cities. The one which has most captured her fancy is of Amsterdam. Unlike the others, it actually carries a message, was actually delivered. She turns over the thought of the sender and recipient, rolling it about in her mind, considering possibilities under the golden gingko trees.

She also has a tin of photos that she has collected over the years from second-hand shops, inventing stories for the people in them until “the people in the photographs came to mean as much to her as her own relatives.”

Smith’s lovely prose encouraged me to slow down and savor each page. She lightly turns over the cards for Isabel, carrying the same gentle mood through the day as Isabel visits a thrift store to buy a dress for a party that night and navigates the office where, in the mornings, she joins Spoke, a slightly older co-worker in the kitchen, where they drink their hot beverages—Earl Grey for her, black coffee in a mason jar for him—in silence. “It is as close as she has been to waking up with him.”

The small happenings of the day send her thoughts back to the past, including Alaska, her parents’ divorce, and her longtime friend Leo whom she calls Loon.

Each short chapter reads like an essay, a richly colored bit of glass to fit into the picture. Like a poem, this story condenses the enormity of Isabel’s day—encompassing not just the present, but the influences of the past and the dreams of the future—and presents them as a series of images and actions and symbols that collectively take us deep into her world.

I enjoyed this book tremendously. I picked it up on a recommendation from http://offtheshelf.com. I’d probably never have chosen it in a bookstore because the unattractive cover does not convey the most important qualities of the story inside.

What novel have you liked in spite of the cover?

Translations from the Night, by Jean-Joseph Rabearivelo


English translations by John Reed and Clive Wake

I love to talk with people about books, so I’ve joined several book clubs over the years. One has a peculiar modus operandi: we don’t read the same book; instead we each talk about a book we’ve read that month. We have a monthly theme, but don’t always stick to it. For this month, we spun a globe to see where our finger landed. Then we read a book either set there or by a local author.

I got Madagascar.

I make a point of reading authors from other countries, but Madagascar? I couldn’t think of an author or book related to that country. In fact, I knew almost nothing about Madagascar except that it is an island off the east coast of Africa that was once part of France’s colonial empire.

Some research led me to the surprising information that the country includes several other islands and that it is over 2.5 times as large as Great Britain, but with 2.5 times less population, most of whom live on less than $2 a day. Madagascar didn’t become a colony until 1897 and gained independence in 1960, so its colonial period was brief. However, that was long enough to poison the life of its most famous writer and Africa’s first modern poet, Jean-Joseph Rabearivelo.

Born in 1901 (though Wikipedia also lists 1903 as a possibility), Rabearivelo was deeply influenced by European fin de siécle writers. Unfortunately, the influence extended beyond his poetry to his lifestyle, leading him to adopt alcohol, opium, gambling and promiscuity as elements of a poet’s life. He played a leading role in the literary life of the capital and became friends with French poet Pierre Camo and Robert Boudry, later Governor-General of the colony. Rabearivelo published several collections of his poetry, writing first in Malagasy and then in French.

Here is an early poem:


Make no sound, do not speak:
off to explore a forest, eyes, heart,
mind, dreams . . .

Secret forest; yet you can touch this forest
with your hands.

Forest astir with stillness,
forest where the bird is gone, the bird to catch,
catch in a trap and make him sing
or make him cry.

Make him sing or make him cry
and tell the place where he was hatched.

Forest. Bird.
Secret forest, bird hidden
in your hands.

He was particularly drawn to the liminal times of dawn and dusk, as shown in this excerpt from my favorite poem in the collection.

Tall Timber

. . .
But suddenly it came to me when last I slept
that the old canoe of fables
was still moored with creepers of night.
Every day it carried my childhood
from the shores of the evening to the shores of the morning,
from the headland of the moon to the headland of the sun.
. . .

I love the images in that poem such as searching for “the nest where the winds are hatched” and memories “like pebbles thrown on the sand / and picked up by an old sailor”.

Near the end of his life he experimented with hain-teny, a form of Malagasy folk poetry that uses proverbs to build a dialogue. Curiously, these enigmatic poems were used to conduct arguments, though it is unclear how reciting poetry could settle a dispute. Here is a short one he wrote:

There in the north stand two stones and they are somewhat alike: one is black and the other is white. If I pick up the white one, the black one shames me. If I pick up the black one, the white one shames me. If I pick them both up, one is love, the other consolation.

Despite his literary success and active correspondence with European writers, Rabearivelo felt isolated in his “colonial prison” and killed himself in 1937. He left a rather melodramatic suicide note comparing himself to poets Léon Deubel, Charles Guérin, and Arthur Rimbaud. In one of his later poems he speaks of a young poet of the future who will “come to know your books” and who “will raise his head / and think that in the sky / among the stars and winds / your tomb is built.”

I loved many of the poems in this collection. It seems sad to me that with all his literary success, he was overwhelmed with frustration and despair. I cannot believe that Europe could have offered him much more than what he already had.

What do you know of the country of Madagascar? Have you ever been there?

The Comic Toolbox, by John Vorhaus

The Comic Toolbox

I am seriously unfunny. I mean, I enjoy a good joke or comedy routine as much as the next person, but fail when it comes to producing one. It’s embarrassing. I only know one joke, well, actually two but the second one is so silly it doesn’t really count: What’s yellow and not a banana? Oh, wait, it is a banana. Silly.

The only person I’ve met who was more humor-impaired than I is my friend, John. He and I were both technical trainers and decided to spice up our dry material with some jokes. I tried to memorise a few with lukewarm results. But John wrote out jokes on index cards and kept a handful in his shirt pocket. When things seemed slow in the classroom, he’d say, “Must be time for a joke.” He’d pull out his cards and leaf through them. Brilliant! The joke itself wasn’t half as funny as the whole performance of selecting it.

I don’t have any ambitions to write for a sitcom or do standup, but I would like to add more humor to my fiction and poetry. I wanted to improve my comic-relief characters. Plus, I’ve been so impressed by Shirley J. Brewer’s use of humor in her poetry that I want to experiment in that vein. But how?

What a joy and relief, then, to stumble on John Vorhaus’s book! It is just what I needed.

He takes a two-pronged approach. The first prong is to create a safe zone. He uses several techniques to ratchet down the fear of failure. One that is most helpful for me is that he breaks each exercise down into progressively more specific questions. Instead of wracking your brain trying to think of something funny to say, you are given a discreet task or question to answer, with plenty of examples. And Vorhaus himself is seriously funny; it’s hard to feel intimidated when you’re snorting with laughter.

The second prong consists of the tools implied by the title. I love tools. I was surprised to discover that what makes a joke work is essentially what makes a story work. I shouldn’t have been surprised, because of course a joke is a story. Vorhaus isolates the factors that make it funny. Using movies and television shows as case studies, he demonstrates each tool in action.

There must be a hundred tools here. The one I liked best was how to create a comic character. Amid discussion and illustrations, he boils the technique down to five elements. Boom! One minute and I had the bare bones of a comic character. Thirty seconds and I had another. Even better, I could see the gaping holes I’d left in the comic characters in my work-in-progress.

There are sections on parody and satire, situation comedy and sketches, but always tools and more tools. This book delivers on its promise: the subtitle is How to Be Funny Even If You’re Not. Finally there is hope for me! I can see that this is a book I will refer to again and again.

Have you ever wanted to write comedy? What are your favorite comic movies or shows? Who is your favorite comedian?