The Null Device
Charlie Stross has posted a collection of Amazon reviews of classic books that miss the point spectacularly:
1984 by George Orwell:
Caitlyn from Atlanta, GA, wrote: "1984 is the worst book I have ever read. I would advise anyone who is thinking about reading this book to reconcider! George Orwell is not a bad writer, however, this book he does not do evry well on, as some of his others. Prehaps he was getting old and lost his touch. Animal Farm was okay, but 1984 was horrible. It took him forever, it seemed like, to get into the accual book. If someone were to take out all of the useless part of 1984, it would be half as long. Why would he wirte so much about nothing? I havent ever meet someone who could wirte such a boring book about the goverment. I have meet many people who have loved this book, but i dispised it. I am not at all intrested in the goverment. This may be part of the reason that I didnt like it. I would advise you not to read this book."
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez:
R. Vanderhoof wrote: "I spent several weeks slogging through this book and found it to be very repetitive and tedious in the extreme. Keeping track of the family tree is a constant effort. At best, Marquez reveals an egalitarian attitude that seems to pervade the Americas south of the Rio Grande (no wonder those countries are in constant economic trouble). Marquez should study supply side economics as described by Milton Friedman, another Nobel Prize winner, in order to give his book better balance."
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens:
A reader wrote: "I found this book difficult to follow and hard to hold my interest. I am an English teacher so I don't think it's me. I was revved about the book and started it immediately unpon receipt. I didn't even finish it--which is something I can say about few books..."
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare:
Son of Sammy wrote: "i just read this book. everybody like always talks about how great it is and everything. but i don't think so. like, it's been done before, right?? soooo cliched. omg."
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck:It has been said that when the finger points at the moon, the idiot stares at the finger. There seems to be a lot of staring at fingers going on in the above book reviews.
M. Landis wrote: "This book was 600 pages written purly about a bunch of hicks from Oklahoma starving. Thanks, but no thanks."
The Daily Telegraph has some excerpts from a book on the psychology of the joke:
Jerry Seinfeld compares telling a joke to attempting to leap a metaphorical canyon, taking the audience with him. The set-up is the nearside cliff, and the punchline is the far side. If they're too far apart, the listeners don't make it to the other side. And if they are too close together, the audience just steps across the gap without experiencing any exhilarating leap. The joke-hearer gets far more pleasure from the joke if he or she has to do a little work.
The surprise mechanism doesn't work without effective timing. It's almost impossible to explain in print because our eyes always skip ahead to the punchline before the set-up is properly digested. But next time you listen to a comedian, listen to the pauses. They're not that funny on their own - obviously, they're just tiny silences - but the point is, neither are the jokes.
It's not that long, wordy jokes can't be funny, but if too much is explained, there's no logical leap for the audience to make, and the paradigm shift which elicits laughter is lost.
Compare: I'm not a homosexual. Mind you, I might be mistaken for one if I went to the north of England. In places like Newcastle, there's such a culture of macho posturing that they go out in their shirtsleeves in all kinds of weather, so if you wear a coat they think you're gay.
And: I'm not gay. Unless you're from Newcastle and by 'gay' you mean, 'owns a coat'.
(via Mind Hacks)