ComPost Live with Alexandra Petri

Aug 14, 2018

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Live chat with Alexandra Petri at 11 a.m. ET. Submit questions and comments for her to respond to now.

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Connect on Twitter: @petridishes And catch up with the blog here!

Happy Tuesday to all, and to all a good Tuesday! How is it going?

I searched the phrase (with quotes), and a few of the pictures that came up contained ONLY DOGS. But for the record, I'll say that I prefer my cat(s) to be gruntled; my appearance kempt; my spouse hibited; my conceptions maculate; my children ruly; my skills ept; my job whelming; my co-workers beciles; and my comments here on the chat to be ane and sipid. I hope someday that I'll have a downfall that is evitable and an afterlife that's fernal; but I have doubts that we'll ever see a Congress that is couth or a President who is peachable.

I feel like this is a blessing that ought to be embroidered on a cushion or framed plaque at the entrance to a home! Also, I nearly misspelled “entrance” so I am wondering if my plan to do this chat without consuming coffee first was as hinged as I thought.

It's going lousy. I've caught my second summer cold in less than a month. Amuse me, folks!

Oh no! If it makes you feel better, I think I’m coming down with something too! They say it helps your immune system to look at pictures of sick people?

Do the words Back to School elicit excitement or dread in you?

The most dreadful excitement of all: nostalgia. 

I'm always in the mood for a good, humorous read and wonder if Chatters & Moderator (par excellence!) can recommend a few titles, not unlike "The Rosie Project." And while I enjoy essays (e.g. David Sedaris) what I seek are full-fledged books that make you smile and are somewhat sad when you reach the final page. [And no, please don't recommend "Unhinged." Enough, already.]

Well, if you want some oldies, I loved Three Men In a Boat (To Say Nothing of The Dog) and Cold Comfort Farm. 

By which I mean the oceans are rising and we're all going to die.

I like this game. It’s like a depressing Tom Swifty!  “How’s it going?” “Smoothly... like a sled downhill off a rock face.”

It would actually make me feel better to be part of an epidemic instead of just seriously unlucky.

Remember that when the zombies come!

P.G. Wodehouse's "Jeeves" books. Mary Roberts Rinehart's "Tish" books. Too old?

Strong concur on the first, will need to look up the second!

I'm getting over something, and those fizzy cold tables seem to work. The fizziness screams "I'm not really efficacious!" but it actually seems to do something.

The fizz is the Cold Remedy equivalent of that old poem about the codfish and the hen, which I cannot exactly recall but goes mostly like this: “The codfish lays a hundred eggs, the humble hen lays one. The codfish never cackles to tell you what she’s done. And so we scorn the codfish while the humble hen we prize! Which only goes to show you that it pays to advertise.” 

Not sure whether it's legit to recommend a book you haven't finished yet, but I am in the midst of Kevin Kwan's "Crazy Rich Asians" (in preparation for the film, of course) and am loving it. Another fave is Joe Keenan's "Blue Heaven," which I reread every few years when I'm in the mood for a farce (he later wrote two similar novels, which are good but a bit derivative).

I’m now trying to think of a particularly egregious example of a book that would be bad to recommend before finishing because it took a sudden turn. Animal Farm? Does it start out cheerily enough?

I haven't read "The Rosie Project," but a quick glance at the internet suggests that it is a romantic comedy. In that genre, my favorite recent read is "Less," by Andrew Sean Greer. It has a kind of Wodehouseian air. I also liked "A Gentleman in Moscow," by Amor Towles, which has charm on every page and humor on most of them. (And there are a lot of pages!) If you want something less elevated, try two books by comedian Mamrie Hart, "You Deserve a Drink" and "I've Got This Round," which made me laugh out loud a lot.

I have heard good things about every book on this list! (And not just from you, right now!)

Sending husband to the drug store now...also the health-food store for turmeric.

Not a book, but we are in the habit of watching only the first half of "Into the Woods" because the best songs are in the first half and the second half gets all dark.

*overturns small table* you mean to say “On The Steps Of The Palace” is a better song than “No One Is Alone”?

...yes, objectively

Act II does have its moments, though.

After the series that aired decades ago on PBS, I can only picture the comedy team of Stephen Fry as Jeeves and Hugh Laurie (later of "House") as Bertie Wooster.

Yes! They are terrific! Bertie is so hard to make work without the narration and Hugh Laurie succeeds brilliantly.

P.G. Wodehouse - any of his. Randall Jarrell's Pictures from an Institution (if you can deal with academic comedies) and also Lucky Jim, ditto. Plus Christopher Moore's Lamb (funnier if you know the New Testament stories but funny enough otherwise). Others of his early books. And Terry Pratchett.

Anything and everything by Rachel Cusk. Her latest is the final installment in a loosely connected trilogy. I have a massive girl-crush on her.

A friend posted a dramatic picture of last night's storms and tagged it as the apocalypse, and people seemed... strangely comforted by the notion.

In the disaster movie version of This Era, the opening few minute montage of everyone finding out about the Meteor is going to include a LOT of I For One Welcome The Meteor tweets. 

There's always Catch-22, anything by Mark Twain, George Carlin or from Terry Pratchett's Discworld.

Oh, and Confederacy of Dunces!

Sure, mid-August is generally the hottest part of summer (for the northern hemisphere). But it's also pretty close to the start of the traditional school year -- i.e., near the end of summer. In this essay, I will explore...

But what is your thesis about the rain?

He was a columnist for the Sunday Times in London, covering both restaurants and television. His columns and essays are some of the funniest and most moving (sometimes both in the same piece) I've ever read. A few to consider: The Angry Island (about the UK); Table Talk (collection of restaurant reviews); To America with Love.

Restaurants and television? That sounds like a dream gig. I’ll have to check him out!

I remember my local public radio station playing Bertie & Wooster radio plays back in the 80s.

I wonder if they were vintage then and are in the public domain now, or if they were new then. Do you remember the voices?

Well, there's "Agony (Reprise)" and "Stay With Me (Reprise)"...

HA

...because it's two months after the Summer Solstice, so the days have already gotten noticeably shorter. In little more than a month, the nights will be longer than the days. Sob!

On the bright side, soon it will be Halloween! Soon Autumn, season of mists and mellow fruitfulness and decorative gourds, will be upon us!

Columnist for The Guardian newspaper and hilarious writer. I can read his history book over and over: "An Utterly Impartial History of Britain, or 2,000 Years of Rule by Upper-Class Idiots."

And pumpkin spice everything. Don't forget pumpkin spice everything.

how could I forget even for a blissful instant

which is nice because I don't have to close the west window curtains to read in the late afternoon or early evening. I can only shift my reading chair so far before I have to close the curtains.

For some reason I am picturing you as Belle from Beauty and the Beast with this talk of West windows and reading chairs. 

1066 and All That - if you have a juvenile sense of humor and really who doesn't?

Yes!!

Fortunately no one in my home village thinks I'm weird or dangerous for reading all the time.

The reading doesn’t bother them; it is the dismissive, passive aggressive singing about what a “poor provincial town” they are that bothers them...

Moo by Jane Smiley for a funny book. 1000 Acres by the same author for a depressing read. Also David Lodge ("Think" + others)

One of the lyrics I frequently think of when I hear "rain" is "Blame it on the rain [plus some extra syllables]". Others include a Beatles song, Monday mornings, and loving a rainy night. I don't know how many songs prominently feature rain. It's like it's an important part of human existence or something. Anyway, the point is, turn around, don't drown.

“Blame it on the rain...deer?” Extra syllables? I have just realized I don’t know any of the lyrics to this song.

I don't know if I can say this is common, but I've noticed it enough that I don't think it's uncommon, and I'm wondering if someone has an explanation. We all swing our arms back and forth a little bit while walking, right? I (a man) occasionally observe women who have a bag or a purse over one shoulder and, while walking, swing and extend their opposite arm far behind them -- much farther than I think is usual. It's like they're swimming the butterfly, except with just one arm. Or it's as if they're attempting to swat something back there. There's nothing wrong with any of this, of course. I'm just wondering why it happens. Does the bag or purse somehow cause this?

I think it’s to counteract the uneven distribution of weight. If the arm-swinging to begin with is for balance, then having a large heavy object on one side would require you to paddle against the current somewhat on the other so as not to tip over.

Augh. "1000 Acres," while brilliant and deserving of that Pulitzer, must be stricken from this list as it is "King Lear in Corn Country." But yes, Moo is a scream (said this daughter of the midwestern land-grant college system).

To be fair, the last chatter did specify that Moo was for laughs, and 1000 acres was aggressively not! But glad to have both confirmed!

put me into a funk for days. Avoid at all costs -unless you like feeling depressed

”So I think the takeaway of this chat is that 1000 Acres is a funny feel-good book!”

There's a good chance youd also like "Land of Milk & Money" by Anthony Barcellos (except it's set in California, not the Midwest).

Happily, for reasons that delight me, full episodes of many of the BBC/PBS series are on YouTube, should you care to spend time laughing. And for an entirely different look at Hugh Laurie, check our "The Night Manager" on Amazon Prime, where he is an evil arms merchant. Dr. House was never like this, let alone Bertie!

Oh, yeah? "Look there she goes, that girl is so peculiar/ I wonder if she's feeling well/ With a dreamy, far-off look/ And her nose stuck in a book/ What a puzzle to the rest of us is Belle... Now it's no wonder that her name means Beauty/ Her looks have got no parallel/ But behind that fair facade/ I'm afraid she's rather odd/ Very different from the rest of us/ She's nothing like the rest of us/ Yes, different from the rest of us is Belle!" Hmmm. I guess it's not the reading per se, but the being different.

It’s the dreamy, far-off look!

"Welcome to Heaven, here's your harp". Below is "Welcome to Hell, Here's your accordion". KidsPost informed me that today is Gary Larson's birthday.

Oh, I love it! 

Concur most strongly with the above poster's recommendation. Some of the most beautiful use of words and images I have read in a long time.

Oh yes House was. He was Evil Arms Dealer in the making. Also, for funny Hugh, check out all four seasons of "A Bit of Fry and Laurie," as well as "Al Fresco," with the usual suspects of Emma Thompson and Robbie Coltrane as well.

I’ve never seen Al Fresco, but the addition of Emma Thompson makes everything better. 

I started to recommend “Chilly Scenes of Winter” by Ann Beattie. When I read it in the very early 1980s, I literally laughed out loud in places. I also thought the movie had funny parts. But, I just read a plot summary online and I now must wonder if my sense of humor was seriously broken in the very early 1980s. Gonna have to reread it.

But it's the reading that makes her different.

Or read To Say Nothing of the Dog - Connie Willis' mashup of time travel, Jerome K. Jerome, Wodehouse, and Dorothy Sayers.

This sounds like a winning recipe!

I got through A Thousand Acres by noting the King Lear bits, which were really brilliantly folded into a totally credible plot. I've never watched the movie because for some reason movies can depress me more than books.

I think books depress me more than movies, but a depressing tv show can get to me more than either?

Because it seems to me (obviously not scientific) that July is worse, but by August you are more sick of it so it can seem worse. Admittedly, I have only lived along the eastern seaboard of the US, so can't speak to the middle of the continent, the west coast or Europe or Asia.

I think another problem is that people are now going back to school in August, and just *shudders* to walk through the hot mouth of a dog into a house of learning seems like an undreamed of torment.

We are all forgetting Douglas Adams. All the novels and, if you want a bit of non-fiction, Last Chance to See is funny thought a bit sad in the topic (imminent extinctions).

Don't forget Douglas Adams' Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series, and don't forget to bring a big towel. Oh, and Kurt Vonnegut.

Yes!! I can’t believe it took us this long to get to Adams!

Yes, YES!!!! I am admittedly part of the "minimalist" culture but I am going to buy this book and this will be one of the very very few books I have because I love it so much. It has everything-happiness, humor, everything. Such a feel good book.

Great read with hysterical footnotes!

And the cover is terrific! Not that one should judge a book that way...

but then I didn't. But I do. By which I mean I married it.

Reader, you married it! 

Do you know where your monogrammed towels are?

I'm nearing the end of "Good Omens" by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. Think "Douglas Adams does the Apocalypse". I'd say "I can't wait to see how it ends", but ...

This is exactly the case, shown by meteorological data. Same with winter: February is not as cold as January but you're more sick of it by then.

Wow, thank you everyone for the numerous magnificent book recommendations! I hope you have a cheery and pleasant week! Until next time, I will be on the blog (washingtonpost.com/blogs/Compost) and twitter! (@petridishes) 

Al Fresco https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6YD0jHKgugE&frags=pl%2Cwn Fry and Laurie https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CwrbiSJVWBY&frags=pl%2Cwn Jeeves and Wooster https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tk7pk58Bq4Q&t=17s&frags=pl%2Cwn

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