Wednesday, March 13, 2013


There's really no easy way to work the gray area with this book, people  – adults and kids alike – either love it or hate it.

I not only happen to like it, I think that in the right boy's hands this book could be a revelation, the long-lost permission to write about anything they can imagine. These 43 fables, vignettes, and cautionary tales mine the fine line between the absurd, the deviant, and then gross. Is it Kafka writing Captain Underpants as edited by Hemingway? Updated Twilight Zone episodes hosted by George Carlin? No! It's Barry Yourgrau twisting and tweaking at the outer fringes of the sudden fiction genre, ideal for the reluctant reader, the subversive student, and the secret writer wondering just how far the short story can be pushed around. Oh, and for the right mindset, it's pretty funny.

The hazards of nose-picking. Pirates mistaking sharks for mermaids. Farting superheroes. Elephants who cheat on tests. Murderous pets and celebrities turned into gerbils. Negligent guardian angels and witches as Internet predators. Yourgrau goes places few have imagined.

For kids who might already be attuned to the absurdity of David Lubar's Weenie series, or who have outgrown Lemony Snickett (or as I do, find him tedious), this would make a logical next step. I know many an adult who would find it difficult to recommend this book, but they might also still be ill-at-ease with Belloc's Cautionary Tales for Children or some of Shel Silverstein's darker work. So be it. I think there is some solace kids take in finding books adults find objectionable, that there are things that are "just for them." Of course, there are adults who enjoy this sort of thing as well, and they also enjoy recommending them to guys.

As we used to say back in the day: Random and Bizarre.

Yup, that just about covers it. Oh, and Neil Gaiman-approved.

by Barry Yourgrau
HarperCollings 2005

also, two sequels. Another NASTYbook: The Curse of the Tweeties (2006), and Yet Another NASTYbook: MiniNasties (2007).

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