There’s an episode of the Simpsons that opens with a parody of Garrison Keillor where the family is watching A Prairie Home Companion and wondering why everyone is laughing. I try referencing it but need my husband to repeat the parody because it’s so close to Keillor’s “humor” that I had Poe’s Law trouble distinguishing the mockery from the real thing. In any case, after a peal of laughter about the men being pink cheeked, the women being robust, and the children being pink cheeked and robust, there’s confusion and Bart suggests it’s the television’s fault, leading to Homer banging on the set, yelling “Stupid TV – be more funny!”
This is pretty much how I feel about every literary book that advertises itself as humorous.
I don’t know what Clark had to say about American culture with this book other than a college freshman’s critique of the artificial, but it’s lost in this collection of meandering plot. A flavorist’s compromised morality and sanity after allowing a toxic flavoring to make it to market, which causes the same obesity in his wife and odd behavior in his son (who stops using verbs) as the animal test subjects is the clearest single thread, but we also have a former aide to Hitler, infertility, a conspiracy to replace the animals tested to push the sweetener to market, a daughter who becomes a militant vegan, an Algerian expose of the sweetener’s effects, the stated verblessness, food shortages after grocery stores become pockets of rage…. it’s just a lot without a lot to say.
I didn’t dislike this because it was marketed as comedic, I bought it for a buck at goodwill and went into it blind, but you start to recognize the rhythms of literary “humor” and it didn’t take me long to decide that this book was both pink cheeked and robust. Pass.