I’m finishing up a nine month nationwide car tour in my other incarnation, and for months now I’ve carried, read and re-read a little book that is such a sheer delight. It’s intelligent, witty, makes me think, makes me laugh and has things I may agree and disagree with. It is a JOY.
It’s “The New Devil’s Dictionary” a 21st century version of the classic made famous in 1911 by Ambrose Bierce. Only this time the caustic wit, searing observations, laugh out loud entries and definitions that linger as you ponder them for a while are written by Rhoda Koenig, for years was the book reviewer for the great New York magazine, as well as a contributor to a host of topflight American and European publications.
The New Devil’s Dictionary is required reading and a required possession for anyone who likes to write, read, is interested in politics, society and popular culture. It’s must reading for those who like to laugh and seriously think. It’s a book you can read in several readings, or carry with you to read — and read again and again and again — on an airplane. And — I must mention it since it’s a compliment — it’s also a book that can rest awhile on The Throne that all of us visit a few times a day.
You almost can’t communicate the fun and solid content of a book like this without giving it away. Except you can with The New Devil’s Dictionary it’s packed with so much that giving you a few of the definition won’t spoil the rest of the book for you. So here are just a few:
big, adj. Way to describe a fat man who might buy something.
death n. Event whose unknown arrival time and lack of photo opportunities lead many to doubt it will arrive at all.
edit v. to remove from a book, article, or television program anything that, even if advancing the readers’ or viewers’ knowledge, might cause them to become angry or confused…..
failure n. Everybody. We have all done things we ought not to have done and failed to do things we should have done. The inveterate failure is summed up in the Yiddish proverb “If he sold shrouds, people would stop dying.”
fast food n. Edible matter that shortens the time necessary to reach the grave.
There are a LOT more on MANY topics. Here’s one of interest to readers of this site:
moderation n. Philasophy whose caution recommends it to the timid and whose dullness is taken for wisdom. Both are at times proved catastrophically wrong, but it remains popular not only among the small and meek but among the great and powerful who share their sensitivity to criticism….”
What is there NOT to like about The New Devil’s Dictionary — a book that can fit in anywhere, stay at home, go with you as you travel and be read and enjoyed again and again? The early 20th century original was genius; this early 21st century version is sheer genius.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.