Favorite Humorous Stories

Picture1This was going to be a top ten list of my favorite humorous stories that have influenced me the most as a writer. But I got into a nasty argument with myself about which ones to include. Since I seldom win these arguments, I quickly conceded defeat. So I decided to write this instead as a series of installments, each focusing on one writer. That way I can live with myself and don’t have to choose just one story.

Where to begin? For me that’s easy. From early on I was always attracted to writers who could not only set me to convulsive laughter, but make me wonder how in the hell they did that. Thurber was one of my earliest heroes. For sheer range of wackiness and imagination he had few equals. And his stories still hold up well today.

Three of his stories immediately come to mind. I think my favorite is “The Night the Bed Fell,” from his autobiographical book My Life and Hard Times. I do think “autobiography” is a stretch when applied to these stories. It is hard to believe that anyone’s family members could be that crazy, or that events described by the author could have really happened that way. No matter. The stories are pure fun. In fact, they inspired me to write my novel The Family That Wasn’ta middle grade fantasy about a boy who finds his family so impossibly crazy that he writes them out of his life by imagining a new perfect family in which he suddenly finds himself living.

A close second is the story “If Grant Had Been Drinking at Appomattox,” from Thurber’s later book The Middle-Aged Man on the Flying Trapeze. I love the way this story starts, as if everything is perfectly normal in General Grant’s camp: “The morning of the ninth of April, 1865, dawned beautifully. General Meade was up with the first streaks of crimson in the eastern sky.” But history is about to be turned on its head. I wonder how many people, after reading this story, have gone to the Internet seeking information about Grant’s drinking problems. It’s a perfect little gem of alternative history as only Thurber could imagine it.

And how could I not include the much-anthologized “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” from the 1942 classic My WorldAnd Welcome To It. After seeing the preview for the latest movie version of this story, all I can say is, save yourself the agony and read the story instead. There’s a good reason it’s been published in so many collections. Not only is it laugh out loud funny, but it’s perfectly constructed in every detail and guaranteed to make a writer despair of ever being able to write a story like that. Now that’s a good role model! 

You can find all of these stories in the recent collection Writings and Drawings by James Thurber, with selections by Garrison Keillor, published in 1996 by Library of America. 

I’d love to hear comments on your favorite humorous stories.

Review of Dragon Daily News by The Reading Nook

Here’s the latest review (Thanks, Laura!) of my new book Dragon Daily News:

“I read and reviewed one other book from Gene so when he contacted me again to read his newest work, I agreed right away. Gene has such a great imagination, and through his writing paints a picture that makes you feel like you’ve fallen right into the story. Dragon Daily News is a collection of short stories for young kids, and I honestly thought they were all so entertaining and fun!! I loved the introduction where he explained where and how some of the stories came to be, and in my opinion I think the adults that pick up this book will find that interesting, and make the stories a little richer.

“I am not yet a parent, but I’ve had a love of reading since a very young age, and it’s followed me through out the years, it’s not above me to read children’s stories, whether it be books that I read and loved as a child or books that I didn’t read as a child, but will simply bring me back to a simpler time in life when everything wasn’t so complicated. I don’t have kids of my own, but have already started collecting books to pass on to my kids when I do have them, and I hope that I can instill my love of reading onto them, and Dragon Daily News is a book I can completely see myself reading with my future kids or even my nieces and nephews.

“If you haven’t read any of Gene’s writing you should definitely check it out, especially if you’re in the mood to read something that will bring you back to the simpler times in life. This book was a quick read, but definitely what I needed to get myself through a slow, boring day at work.”  Read the complete review at: http://thereadingnook123.blogspot.com/2013/04/kids-korner-review-dragon-daily-news-by.html

The Dragons are Here!

Dragon Daily News now available in Kindle!                                                   http://www.amazon.com/Dragon-Stories-Imagination-Children-ebook/dp/B00B78QUIK

Read what one reviewer has to say:      DDN-kindlecover3-1

Odd encounters, chance meetings, what ifs, what  nextsthose are the words that spring to mind while reading Gene Twaronite’s Dragon Daily News. From books that leak their words to a fig tree that really pulls up roots and walks away, Twaronite’s stories are sprinkled with the wacky and the weird—while generally being totally believable. Inspired in many instances by traditional tales or fables, the stories sparkle with unexpected twists—you’ve heard about going hunting for tofu beasts, right? Then there are those idiosyncratic characters. From Stretch (a rubber boa who has grand adventures while stretched) to Snoop and Snort (dragon cub reporters in search of the truth about those creatures called people), the characters drive the stories forward, begging the reader to ponder what they might do next. If I were still a classroom teacher, this is just the sort of book I’d share with my students to trigger their own imaginations. Instead, I’ll settle for sharing it with my grandkids as we wonder if tofu beasts might still be found somewhere—besides in a grocery store….”

Suzanne Barchers, former Managing Editor at Weekly Reader                               (Suzanne, who holds a doctorate in curriculum and design, is also a consultant and the author of 175 published books. Visit her website at:  http://www.suzannebarchers.com/

Read more about the book at my website:  http://www.dragondailynews.net                    Print and Nook formats coming soon. Stay tuned.