So you're reading and you pretty much know that when it says on the second page of a book, "Later Mandate has dinner with a seal," and then the third page begins a story called Fart Boobs that you've pretty much either slipped off the axis, been shot out of your league, or found yourself comfortably at home. Michael Kupperman's Tales Designed to Thrizzle Volume Two is chock full of non sequitur humor, revelry in randomness, and smug little "push you in the muds" that it is best suited only for those for whom this sort of thing amuses.
"Whom does it amuse" may be the larger question this book raises.
In an increasingly discordant world full of 42 different Greek Yogurts and 17 different Pay Options, our sense of humor has become more self-referential and obtuse. We live in a post-Dada world where wearing an empty tuna fish can as a hat is a goof, a political statement and an expression of your individuality. It is also a dessert topping and a floor wax.
In this collection, Kupperman belly flops into the pool of the absurd (the one half-filled with Jello and amyl nitrate) and comes up red chested and laughing. He then begins a powerful Butterfly stroke into the deep end. After all, Tales Designed to Thrizzle Volume Two is designed to… well… Thrizzle you.
Reading this collection of shorts, one-offs, and the tales of Twain and Einstein had me wading through references and expectations, irony and poignancy, guffaws and head-shakes while all the while looking askance at the people around me and wondering when we decided that a right shoe on a left foot was a cultural signifier and when the word "drainage" could indeed be the basis for an extended riff.
What have we become when our humor no longer is a commentary on the difference between expectations and reality? Where have we gone when what makes us laugh is no longer sourced from oppression but commodification? Who, exactly, are these tales designed to thrizzle?
These are tales meant to trip you up and bathe you in the thick ink of a Tristan Tzara poem: "a lamp is called green and sees/ carefully stepping into a season of fever" The humor confronts with its thrizzle and strips bare the pretenses of Mark Twain, Albert Einstein, Saint Peter and Jack Klugman. But in doing so, what does it make of us?
Are we the cipher of a new understanding or are we so inured to absurdity that we expect it in everything, from our entertainment to our sandwiches to our political choices?
Kupperman's Tales Designed to Thrizzle Volume Two has its place in the construct. It is "silver and exact" like Sylvia Plath's Mirror and reflects the "terrible fish" that has become our understandings of the world.
When everything is a joke, serious things remain unconsidered. We thrizzle through our lives with our earbuds planted, twirling our implausible mustaches, and arranging our faces to best accentuate our sardonic snicker.
Who are these tales designed to thrizzle?
Why sadly you, of course.
Or the marmot wearing a red plaid sports coat buying tickets to the opera to impress the lady he so longingly desires, the lady with the enormous teeth carved into a likeness of Mount Rushmore — except in place of the face of Lincoln, the tooth sculptor has put Billy Dee Williams dressed as Lando Calrissian holding a Colt 45 can and smiling like he just fucked your girlfriend (because he did). Theirs is a doomed romance for sure. Marmots don't understand the subtitles necessary for courting a lady of her stature.
Daniel Elkin wishes there were more opportunities in his day to day to wear brown corduroy and hang out in lobbies. He has been known to talk animatedly about extended metaphors featuring pigs' heads on sticks over on that Twitter (@DanielElkin). He is Your Chicken Enemy.