Tag Archives: humor

Book Review: Evangellyfish

Did you know Douglas Wilson writes fiction? I didn’t either. But he does. And he’s good at it, too.

First serialized online, and now officially published, Wilson’s novel Evangellyfish concerns Chad Lester, the wildly successful head pastor of Camel Creek church. He’s written multiple bestsellers, hosts his own radio show, and leads a congregation of thousands. Heck, his church even has escalators.

But Chad is notorious for his *cough* indiscretion. He’s a character who – to borrow a phrase from Tim Challies – “makes Bill Clinton look positively chaste.” Yeah, that kind of indiscretion.

So when Chad gets embroiled in a scandal, the accusation itself is not as shocking as it might have been: what’s shocking is that the accuser is a man. Now, there’s no denying Chad’s sexual proclivities, but he’s as straight as they come – and horrified that anyone would suggest otherwise. Then again, why should anybody believe him?

John Mitchell is also a pastor… but without all the bling-bling. He shepherds his small flock with care, and the most trouble he’s had is dealing with petty choir feuds. He has his faults, of course; and when Chad Lester comes crashing down off his high-and-mighty throne, Mitchell feels more than a tinge of joy. But all that changes when Chad calls him for help. Seriously?

“How low can grace go? Whores, thieves, and junkies, sure. But pastors?” 

This book is a terrific read. Packed with colorful characters, darkly humorous situations, and cringe-inducing insight, Evangellyfish successfully satirizes the sort of Christ-less Christianity so prevalent in contemporary evangelicalism.

Wilson’s writing is stellar, which should come as no surprise. I’ve enjoyed his wit and wisdom in the past, and this book is no exception. Wilson aims his pen primarily at the seeker-driven church and prosperity gospel movement, and skewers them both with incredible accuracy.

While steeling yourself for this onslaught of savage humor, you should also get ready to highlight like crazy. You’ll want to catch all the clever word pictures and funny turns of phrase. The story is a goldmine for nuggets like this:

Chad Lester was appalled by this dishonesty as only a dishonest man can be. For those who have never seen this phenomenon in action, he was the kind of man who was entirely unaccustomed to looking at lies from this end of the barrel. He was now counting the rounds in their chambers. (p. 137)

As indicated above, this is a funny story. And not only funny, but consistently funny. Wilson’s humor is fresh and interesting, and whenever he takes a shot at something, he hits it. The way he pokes fun at the travesty of today’s youth ministry struck me as especially grin-worthy:

[Johnny] was one of seven assistants to the main youth minister, who was off doing stuff and never around anymore, and [he] had been told many times that he had a promising future ahead of him in this “most important work.” He had short blond hair, and a diamond stud earring – big enough to give him street cred, so necessary in youth work these days, and yet the earring was small enough to not worry the small handful of people at Camel Creek who might possibly have a problem with it. At one point in the church’s history there might have been a handful of people disturbed by this kind of thing in the church, but they had all died and gone to heaven quite a number of years before. Frankly, none of these people cared about it now, apparently having better things to think about. But Johnny still agonized over such things – what size earring would the apostle Paul have worn if his mission had been to the skateboarding and pants-droopy youth of today? Not an easy question to answer. (p. 92)

But don’t get too comfy. You might not be a youth pastor or mega-church minister, but there’s plenty for the average pew-sitter to think about here as well. Amid the humorous savaging of some of the worst in modern evangelicalism, Wilson calls his readers to examine themselves. We’re all in need of grace, and lots of it… even if we aren’t involved in the latest sex scandal.

Evangellyfish gets a hearty recommendation from me, though I’d reserve it for readers over the age of 16. The themes throughout are quite mature, and there’s a smattering of crude language and wink-wink nudge-nudge humor.

The 25 Funniest Analogies

Earlier today, blogger Tim Challies linked to a list of twenty-five hilarious analogies, as compiled by high school English teachers. I just had to share it. You can read the full post by clicking here. For now, here are a few of my favorites:

“Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.”

“From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you’re on vacation in another city and Jeopardy comes on at 7:00 p.m. instead of 7:30.”

“The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while.”

“Even in his last years, Granddad had a mind like a steel trap, only one that had been left out so long it had rusted shut.”

“Shots rang out, as shots are wont to do.”

Missing (Short Story)

Short stories are a lot of fun, both to write and to read. Since writing Wolf, I’ve committed two more bizarre and completely wacked-out stories to paper, one entitled Premonition and the other, Missing (in case you haven’t noticed, I’m going with the single-word title thing here). The latter is now available for your consideration and constructive criticism at this location.

Missing is less weird than Wolf and more lighthearted than Premonition – even if it’s still rather creepy in its own way. In some ways, it’s also a cautionary tale that doesn’t take itself seriously. At any rate, it’s supposed to make you smile. And if, upon reading the story, you are left feeling depressed or down-trodden, let me know, and I will ensure that the story never sees the light of day again. It’s a bad sign when your writing produces suicidal tendencies among your readers.

***Do NOT read the comments on this post until you
have read the story yourself as there may be spoilers.***

Book Review: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Douglas Adam’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a crazy, crazy book. And I mean that in a totally good way.

Seconds before Earth is destroyed to make way for an intergalactic freeway, Arthur Dent is whisked away by his close pal, Ford Prefect, who’s been posing as an out-of-work actor for the last fifteen years… even though he’s really a researcher for a revised edition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. And thus begins a wild journey through the galaxy, during which the two friends meet with out-of-this-world adventure and an assortment of zany characters.

If you’ve seen the movie Men In Black (1997), you’ll know exactly what I mean when I say that this book is the literary equivalent of that movie. To quote the School Library Journal, “Very simply, the book is one of the funniest SF spoofs ever written, with hyperbolic ideas folding in on themselves.”

The characters we are introduced to throughout the course of the story are a truly delightful bunch. There’s the hapless protagonist Arthur Dent, who can’t seem to view the demolition of his home planet with the same flippancy that his friend – the intrepid Ford Prefect – does. There’s Zaphod Beeblebrox, a double-headed ex-hippie endowed with extra appendages who also happens to be the President of the Galaxy, and his girlfriend, Trillian (whom Arthur once tried to pick up at a cocktail party on Earth). We also meet Marvin, a paranoid, chronically-depressed android. He’s positively hilarious, though I’m sure he wouldn’t think so.

Adam’s narration of the story is quick-moving and clever, and along the way, he offers plenty of hilarious commentary. For instance, concerning the horrendous poetry of a certain alien races, he writes,

Vogon poetry is of course the third worst in the Universe. The second worst is that of the Azgoths of Kria. During a recitation by their Poet Master Grunthos the Flatulent of his poem “Ode to the Small Lump of Green Putty I found in My Armpit One Midsummer Morning” four of his audience died of internal hemorrhaging, and the President of the Mid-Galactic Arts Nobbling Council survived by gnawing one of his own legs off. Grunthos is reported to have been “disappointed” by the poem’s reception, and was about to embark on a reading of his twelve-book epic entitled My Favorite Bathtime Gurgles when his own major intenstine, in a desperate attempt to save life and civilization, leaped straight up through his neck and throttled his brain.

Adams then adds,

The very worst poetry of all perished along with its creator, Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings of Greenbridge, Essex, England, in the destruction of the planet Earth.

Content-wise, the book is fairly clean. The author occasionally pokes fun at Christianity (there’s very little he doesn’t poke fun at), and needless to say, his understanding of it is pretty off-base. Some of the dialogue features a smattering of suggestive humor and crude language. Personally, I’d say the book is an appropriate choice for ages 15 and up.

I highly recommend The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It’s not altogether perfect, but it’s certainly worth your time. It’s science fiction laced with laughs – and I can hardly think of a funnier book I’ve read all year.

Book Review: Pyramids

Unlike most boys his age, young Teppic doesn’t spend his time chasing girls or hanging out at the mall. Instead, he trains at a famous school run by the Assassins’ Guild, where he learns the ancient art of inhumation (otherwise known as “bumping off”). No sooner does he pass his exit exam, however, than he learns that his father, King Teppicymon XXVII, is dead – leaving Teppic the sole heir the throne of Djelibeybi.

But that’s not the worst of it: Teppic has absolutely no clue about what it means to be a pharaoh. Of course, the first thing to do is to build a worthy resting place for Dad – a pyramid to end all pyramids. Then there are numerous other administrative duties he must attend to, such as dealing with mad priests and sacred crocodiles, not to mention making the sun rise each morning. As if that’s not enough, the teenaged pharaoh uncovers deceit and betrayal at the very heart of his realm.

Having steeped myself in several volumes of rather bleak fiction (ala Lord of the Flies), I felt I needed a break. I wanted a funny book, one that didn’t take itself so seriously. Somehow or other, Terry Pratchett’s name appeared on my list of to-be-read-authors. I did a bit of research, dropped by the library, and borrowed Pyramids. It fit the bill perfectly.

Part of the bestselling Discworld series, Pyramids is an outrageous send-up of ancient Egypt (and to a certain extent, ancient Greece). It’s a fantasy adventure loaded with hilarity and satire, and hardly a page goes by that won’t have the reader smiling, laughing, or in stitches. Think Monty Python meets J.R.R. Tolkien, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of the fantastical funniness of this book.

Throughout the story, we are introduced to a number of memorable characters: Teppic the boy King; Ptraci the brash and flirtatious handmaiden; Dios the mad priest; Ptaclusp the architect; a group of neo-Athenian philosophers who can’t seem to agree on anything; and my personal favorite, a mathematically-inclined camel with a crabby temper. As another critic so aptly put it, “What makes Terry Pratchett’s fantasies so entertaining is that their humor depends on the characters first, on the plot second, rather than the other way around. The story isn’t there simply to lead from one slapstick pratfall to another pun. Its humor is genuine and unforced.”

Along with the memorable characters come some equally memorable scenes. My favorite one occurs when the gods of Djelibeybi begin to fight over the Sun. A priest, witnessing this epic contest, proceeds to commentate on the struggle in sports-announcer fashion:

“It would appear,” said the high priest of Cephut, the god of Cutlery, who felt that he could take a more relaxed view of the situation, “that Thrrp has fumbled it and has fallen to a surprise tackle from Jeht, Boatman of the Solar Orb.”

There was a distant buzzing, as of several billion bluebottles taking off in a panic, and a huge dark shape passed over the palace.

“But,” said the high priest of Cephut, “here comes Scrab again… yes, he’s gaining height… Jeht hasn’t seen him yet, he’s progressing confidently toward the meridian… and here comes Sessifet, Goddess of the Afternoon! This is a surprise! What a surprise this is! A young goddess, yet to make her mark, by my word, what a lot of promise there, this is an astonishing bid, eunuchs and gentlemen, and… yes… Scrab has fumbled it! He’s fumbled it!… and… what’s this? The elder gods are, there’s no other word for it, they’re cooperating against these brash newcomers! But the plucky young Sessifet is hanging in there, she’s exploiting the weakness… she’s in!… and pulling away now, pulling away, Gil and Scrab appear to be fighting, she’s got a clear sky and, yes, yes… yes!… it’s noon! It’s noon! It’s noon!”

Silence. The priest was aware that everyone was staring at him. Then someone said, “Why are you shouting into that bulrush?”

“Sorry. Don’t know what came over me.”

Who should read Pyramids? Everyone… over a certain age, that is. While most of the humor is quite clean, there are several instances of sexual innuendo/suggestive dialogue, making it a book that I think is best reserved for readers ages 15 and up.