David Bruce: The Funniest People in Books, Volume 2 — Education


• Not everyone is meant to be a soldier. In his part-fiction, part-autobiographical book titled Unreliable Memoirs, critic Clive James tells about a soldier he calls Peebles. As soldiers were trained how to throw a grenade, a sergeant would give the soldier a grenade, and the soldier would remove the pin and then throw the grenade. Well, most of the soldiers did that. Peebles removed the pin, then handed the grenade back to the sergeant. After a few such experiences, the sergeants would put Peebles somewhere safe, then teach the other soldiers and fake a passing score for Peebles.

• As a young teenager, R.L. Stine, the author of the Fear Street and Goosebumps books, wrote humorous pieces and distributed them to his fellow students in junior high and high school. Occasionally, a student would get caught reading one of Bob’s pieces in class because of laughing out loud. This was a pleasure to young Bob, even though it occasionally meant that he was sent to visit the principal. He used his humorous talents in other ways; in high school, he wrote this (losing) slogan for a friend who was running for president of the senior class: “Kick the scoundrel in.”

• When children’s book illustrator Julie Downing was in high school, she told a guidance counselor that she wanted to be an artist and go to the Rhode Island School of Design. Apparently, the guidance counselor had heard about starving artists, so he suggested that she learn typing in case a career as an artist didn’t work out. Ms. Downing went ahead and applied to the Rhode Island School of Design and swore that she would never learn how to type. (Later, she decided to write books as well as illustrate them, so she learned how to type.)

• As a chemistry major at Cornell University, author Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., enjoyed playing practical jokes. During finals week, he would go to the final exam of a lecture class that was so large the professor could not know everyone in the class. After the exams were passed out, Mr. Vonnegut would take his exam up to the professor, rip it into small pieces, throw it on the professor’s desk, storm out of the exam room, and slam the door behind him. (Of course, Mr. Vonnegut wasn’t actually enrolled in that particular class.)

• James T. Farrell, author of the Studs Lonigan trilogy (1932-1935), came to believe that literature had been taken over by college professors, literary critics, and other damned fools. Asked if he would teach a creative writing course, he replied that he would — but with two conditions: “First, that I could do all the writing; second, that I could seduce all the girls.” (Interviewer Roger Ebert asked him, “What about the boys?” Mr. Farrell replied, “They could imitate their teacher.”)

• While feminist comedian Kate Clinton was earning her master’s degree in English, she met poet Adrienne Rich, who was a visiting teacher, and started to say, “There doesn’t seem to be much written about feminist humor and” — at this point, Ms. Rich stopped her and asked, “Why don’t you write it?” Ms. Clinton says, “When Adrienne Rich asks you to do something, you do it.” Her essay on feminist humor appears at the end of her book titled What the L? By the way, Ms. Clinton was working on her memoirs one day when her computer told her, “You are almost out of memory.”

• R.L. Stine has sold over 300 million copies of his scary books for children. He once went back to his native Columbus, Ohio, for a book signing, at which a woman came up to him and asked if he remembered her — she had been one of his English teachers. Mr. Stine, in fact, did not remember her, but he told her, “You were such a big influence on me.” He adds, “It made her day. And it was a nice thing to do.” (And, probably, even the English teachers we don’t remember are a big influence on us.)


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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Music Recommendation: Jim Ivins — “Why” (featuring Tom Yankton)


Music: “Why” (featuring Tom Yankton)


Artist: Jim Ivins

Artist Location: Nashville, Tennessee

Info: Jim Ivins is the lead singer of the Jim Ivins Band.

See jimivins.com for comprehensive personal, co-writing and session work discography, as well as voice-over work.

This is a Nashville-centric collaborative album. All proceeds benefit the MusiCares COVID Relief Fund, and the album features over 50 of Nashville’s finest musicians.

Price: Name Your Price (includes FREE) for track and for 12-track album

Genre: Rock. Pop.


Jim Ivins on Bandcamp