Galleons, when it comes to comedy, I’ve always been… a bit picky in my choice of films, books, and stand-up. Your basic, mainstream, gag-heavy, fart powered, gross-out laden, dick-joke run media aren’t going to cut it for me.
Okay, well, I do like the odd dick joke.
For the most part, though, I like my humor clever. I like it sharp and well-written, dark, a bit zany, sexy, and smart. There’s usually more subtlety than in your average summer comedy. I love British humor because it employs, on the whole, writing teams with a stronger regard for the relative intelligence of their viewers.
When it comes to books, I don’t tend to read much in the humor genre. It’s hard for me to find something honestly hilarious, something not trite and so dumbed-down that I feel insulted reading it. As such, while my bookcases overflow with poignant fiction, poetry, and popular science, there are few books nestled in there that one could classify as “humor.”
Yes, I am a pretentious twat.
I say this so that you understand that when I recommend a book based on its humor value, I don’t do so lightly. As far as actual novels go (not counting the writings of the few comedians I enjoy), there are only 5 or so that I have found breath-stealingly hilarious. And two of these books are by the same author: Max Barry.
Barry’s writing is devastatingly addicting, sharp, and wickedly funny. I cannot help but giggle aloud when reading his stuff. Of particular note is Syrup, a witty satire on marketing and corporate America (considering I find the morally malleable advertising game dead interesting, this is kind of spot-on my taste). I could rave all day about this book (and have, to many people), but instead, I’ll just suggest you go read it. It’s a lightning fast read, and you won’t be disappointed.
I bring it up now because I’ve been rereading it and felt the need to share the creative, honest, adorably stupid, and amusing descriptors of 6, the lady Scat1 (our main character) is infatuated with. Mostly because I find them so damn relatable- if you could pop into my head when I’m around the guy I like, my inner monologue basically sounds like this:
The New Products Marketing Manager enters the room and I am stunned. I am flabbergasted. I want to grab her, fling her across the table and make love to her. For whole seconds I can do nothing but stare.
“Bear my child, you great goddess of a woman,” I say, although by then she has hung up.
Reminders: dark eyes, lips like a rubber dinghy.
6′s deadly eyebrows sharpen into a frown. I’m sure that if she turned these weapons onto whoever knifed her, she could slice him into little pieces.2
She picks up on the fourth ring. “Hello?” Her voice is like honey smeared across velvet pajamas.
Before I can recover, 6 is in my face, holding me by my lapels. Despite myself, I’m stunned by her proximity. I’m undone by the spice of her breath.
She kisses me. Hard. Fast. Devastating. 6 breaks away, and I gasp for air. White spots come over and peer into my eyes to make sure I’m okay. My nerves leap around, saying, “What the fuck was that?” and for a second I’m sure 6 has taken the opportunity to punch me hard in the guts.
She arches an eyebrow. I’ve noticed that 6 is very egalitarian with her eyebrows: sometimes the left gets to arch, sometimes the right.3
I reach out and take one of 6′s hands. They are warm and smooth and suddenly I have to fight a strong and very stupid urge to lick one.4
6 rises from her chair like she’s in slow motion, rises until she is inches from my face. Her intoxicating scent washes over me, and for a moment the office tips dangerously.
“Scat,” she says, and her lips are curving into a genuine, authentic smile. It is shocking, stunning. “Sometimes, you-” She stops, licks her lips. I am leaning into them, helpless to stop myself. “You surprise me,” 6 says softly.
I’ll tell you exactly what’s required at this precise moment: a raised eyebrow. That’s what I need to do. A sardonically raised eyebrow has a good chance of progressing to a brushing of lips, and that could lead to my hand reaching into that dark hair and pulling her close. And after that, there could be all kinds of acts that presently defy imagination but I’m sure will be nice.
She is dressed formally, I am pretty sure, and I think her hair is still the gorgeous dark waterfall it was six months ago. Her shoes are probably black and high, and there could be some kind of handbag slung around her shoulder. But I can’t tell for sure, because I can’t take my eyes off her face.
“Scat,” she says, and I never knew my name sounded so good.
“6,” I say. This relieves me greatly, because for a few moments the tiny part of my brain still functioning was leaping headlong into Marry me. Not such a good opening line, that. A touch too intense.
I’m not completely sure how I feel about 6. And even if I was, I have no idea what I’d do about it. I mean, sure, she’s intriguing, gorgeous and treats me like shit, but despite these attractive qualities I don’t know if I’m ready for a relationship based on manipulation.
I open my mouth to send back a sizzling rejoinder, which will no doubt inflame 6 even further and maybe our passions will rise so much that I’ll even grab her and just kiss her hard, but then I realize that 6′s idea actually makes sense.
Silence. I count to a hundred, concentrating on breathing steadily. I’m up to eighty-six when 6 rolls over and something flops down onto my chest.
I look up but can’t see anything except her sheet of hair. I carefully lift up the blanket and peer under it to see that, amazingly, 6′s arm is resting on my chest. One immaculate hand extends from Tina’s blue satin top and rests, black nails and all, on my chest.
I wait for a minute, hoping that maybe this is some clever seduction ploy, then I carefully rest my left arm on top of 6′s.
No reaction. I can’t believe it. I just can’t believe it.
It takes me half an hour to pick up enough courage to intertwine my fingers with 6′s, and when I do, it feels like heaven. I can’t understand how it can feel so good to just hold her hand.
I lie like that in the darkness for two hours, and by the time I fall asleep I’m pretty sure I’m in love with her again.
“Oh.” I’m about to add something noncommittal when 6 nudges me. I am leaning in for an embrace before I realize she’s just trying to get my attention.
I’m annoyed with 6. Now, I know I have a long tradition of being wrong, but here I’m fairly sure I’m right. If 6′s behavior doesn’t qualify as mixed signals, I’m giving up on relationships.
Like a brush from angel wings, I feel the unmistakeable contact of 6′s lips on mine.
At this point, I’m very, very lucky.
You see, my reaction is instinctive. The kiss is so unexpected that I have no chance of controlling my body’s response. A few of the less appealing possibilities include snorting, gasping, and sitting bolt upright and screaming.
Fortunately, I do none of these. Instead, my entire body, maybe figuring that this display of affection from 6 must be a dream, shuts down. I don’t freeze, I relax. I’ve never felt so relaxed in my life. It’s like her lips have drugged me.
By the time we get home, it’s eleven o’clock and we’re both tanked. In the bathroom, I boldly peck 6 on the cheek and she glances at me in a way that I could swear is affectionate. When we go to bed, she lets one forearm dangle off the sofa so that her fingers graze my arm but acts like she doesn’t know she’s doing it, and I could believe that this is the best night of my life.
“I want you to know that I’m cool with your mixed signals,” I say. “In fact, I’m kind of getting used to it. So don’t worry. I can take it.”
6 is silent.
“I love you.” It’s a little risky, but it comes out okay: casual but sincere. I leave a pause, just in case 6 is inspired to do some declaring of her own, but to tell the truth, I’m never very hopeful.
The skies have opened up and 6, standing on the street in her red pajamas, is soaked through. She peers through the glass door at me, her hair hanging in thick, bedraggled locks, and she is absolutely gorgeous. She’s not wearing makeup, her hair is a disaster and she isn’t dressed, and she’s just beautiful.
I blink, but someone bumps into me from behind. I turn and it’s 6. “Hello,” she says.
“Hi!” Suddenly she’s here and I have no idea what to do.
1 Yes, their names are 6 and Scat. They are in marketing, with “potential employers who had names like Fysh, Siimon, and Onion.” So, they both selected “wacky, zany, top-of-mind names” because they sounded “fast-track.” Just roll with it- it’s part of the slick, hip, strange world of marketing Barry throws you into in this book.
2 There’s a rather hilarious obsession with 6′s eyebrows present throughout the book. In her first description, she is mentioned as having eyebrows that could “cut steel.” While I have said in the past that I’m not a fan of authors wantonly bandying about the powers of delicate eyebrow manipulation, this is a rare case where it fits the character perfectly. 6 is all about marketing herself, and she would absolutely have spent the requisite time in front of a bathroom mirror teaching herself how to use her eyebrows to their fullest potential. It raises her ‘cool’ factor, making her impressive, memorable, and effective in her chosen field.
3. Told you.
4. Fun Fact (that I most certainly should not be telling you because it will come back to bite me in the ass): Back when the object of my affection had mutton chops (so early in our acquaintance, that), I used to get the sudden urge to lick him from the tip of his chin on up to his entirely-too-enticing lips.