Joke Police.

I was unfriended on Facebook the other day, by a lass I have known for over ten years, and all because of a joke I posted about Jimmy Savile.  Here is the joke in question –

“They have just found Jimmy Savile’s diary.

His last entry was about 10 years old.”

According to the lass who found this “appalling”, I am “laughing at child rape”.  And this from a girl who studied journalism and, presumably, knows a thing or two about the English language.  If you take the time to actually read the joke, you will notice the butt of the joke is the child abuser, not the victim.  I am guessing this nuance is lost on the professionally offended.  Still, never let the facts get in the way of ones self-righteousness, eh?
I find it kind of frightening really that people trained in, and preparing for a career in journalism are prepared to insist on censorship.  I find it unbelievable that the joke is more offensive than the decades of silence by mainstream journalists on the “open secret” that was Jimmy Savile’s alleged fondness for pre-pubescent girls.

In my humble opinion there should be no topics off-limits for comedy.  The topics that are deemed taboo, I suggest, are the very subjects that need broached the most.  Comedy has a long and noble tradition of tackling difficult subjects.  Take Bill Hicks on Iraq, or abortion for instance.   Near the knuckle jokes and comedians, at their best, help test and define boundaries, and consequently help progress or redefine the moral code of society.  It is also informative.  After all, who else, during the last ten or twenty years was informing people about the suspicions about Jimmy Savile?  It certainly wasn’t journalists who were too scared of Savile’s “fame and power” to report on it.  There is always a place for comedy, particularly when the media is such an embarrassing failure.

A Gift, From Me To You.

A conversation I was having with a chap on Twitter this evening inspired me to make a list of 5 books that I think you may enjoy.  Books that I love and treasure, and ones that I think everyone should love and treasure.  Call it a wee gift, from me to you.  They are in no particular order, though the first book is the one I recommended on Twitter this evening, and the one that prompted this post.  I hope you enjoy them.  This may, or may not, become a regular feature.

Fup, by Jim Dodge.
Fup, is quite simply a wonderful little book.  It has a duck, a boar, a gentle giant making fences, and an immortal grandfather who spends his days distilling Ole Death Whisper whiskey.  I first read this book on the train between Glasgow Central and Wemyss Bay, and devoured it in less than 45 minutes.  It’s a book I haven’t read in a while due to giving all my copies away – they don’t come back – but it still has me smiling like a loon just thinking about it.

Sombrero Fallout, by Richard Brautigan.
Richard Brautigan is one of my very favourite authors.  I think it is tragic he is seemingly not very well known.  Sombrero Fallout is unlike anything you will have ever read.  It is surreal, absurd, profound, concise, bittersweet, and quite beautiful.  It is the tale of a writer’s lost love, and of an ice cold sombrero that falls to earth bringing chaos to a small town in America.  Brautigan has a style all of his own, short sentences that deserve to be read out loud for the pleasure they bring as they trip off the tongue.   All of his books are fabulous, but this is my personal favourite.

The Good Fairies Of New York, by Martin Millar.
This is a book that took me by surprise.  It was sent to me by a good friend of mine in Scotland, a guy who I would think the last person to recommend fairy stories.  But this is a fairy story with a difference.  It’s a story about two kilted, punk fairies on the run from their clans in the UK, who end up in New York.  There is sex, drugs, rock’n’roll, fighting, and more crazy fairies than you can shake a stick at.   With one of the most memorable opening pages I have ever read, this is another book that made me laugh out loud, a lot.

Slaughterhouse 5, by Kurt Vonnegut.
Kurt Vonnegut is quite possibly my favourite writer, and Slaughterhouse 5 is probably his most famous book.  It is a satirical black comedy, with a dash of sci-fi, and personal memoir thrown in.  It is ostensibly about Vonnegut’s experiences as a prisoner of war in Dresden at the end of World War Two, but it is also very much more than that.  This is a book both funny and disturbing, horrific and humane, serious and surreal, which should be required reading for armchair generals everywhere.

Hunger, Knut Hamsun.
This is an incredibly intense and powerful book about the travails of a desperately poor writer trying to make enough money from day to day in order to live.  Rarely have I had such an emotional involvement in a character.  Here is man who’s pride leads him to the very edge of starvation, a starvation that is somehow made palpable for the reader.  The test of a good book, for me, is in it’s memorability.  I have only read this book once, about ten years ago, an ex-girlfriend has my copy, and I can still remember the emotional rollercoaster it put me on as if it was yesterday.  And by no means is this an irredeemably bleak book, it has many humorous episodes too.