Friday, 13 May 2016

Discovering Erma Bombeck

"When humour goes, there goes civilisation."

 
Some of that humour died with Erma Bombeck in April 1996. 

I first heard of the American author and humourist in the late nineties and read about her work only after I had access to the internet. Then, about a decade ago, I bought a few paperbacks in a secondhand bookshop and was hooked by her clean, elegant, and thoughtful humour. She saw the funny side of everyday life, marriage, family, children, relationships, jobs, dreams, and even issues like post-natal depression. There was a distinct flavour to her humour writing that put me at ease as I read.

Last evening, I bought one more book, I Want to Grow Hair, I Want to Grow Up, I Want to Go to Boise: Children Surviving Cancer (1989), a grim and sobering read compared to her previous books. The book is not without humour, except it's not her own. Bombeck sees and hears the wonderful stories of brave children and teenagers who survived cancer and is amazed when she learns how humour and laughter and optimism helped the kids beat the odds.

As she prepared to write the book, Bombeck wondered if there could be humour in such a serious topic. Her doubts were cleared when one kid told her, "Would you be happier if we cried all the time?" She was convinced. Bombeck donated all the money earned from the sale of this book to cancer research. 


Every once in a while I read Erma Bombeck. I leaf through her books at random, in much the same way I read spiritual books. Humour and philosophy, there's not much difference. Both put me in a good mood. That's the idea of reading most anything.

22 comments:

  1. Having had cancer surgery just 6 weeks ago, I doubt I'd find this particularly amusing, but thanks for bringing it to my attention. Maybe later...

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    1. Richard, I am very sorry to hear about your surgery and I hope you have fully regained your health. I enjoy Erma Bombeck's books as they are light reads and funny too.

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    2. My wife is a big fan of Erma Bombeck's work. I've seen Erma interviewed many times. She was funny and clever. I haven't seen this book before, but I'll track down a copy.

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    3. George, I never thought of listening to or watching her interviews. Thanks for bringing it to my notice.

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  2. I do believe I've read one of her books years ago and liked it but I don't have any records of it. I will have to go through her list of works and see if I can find it.

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    1. Charles, I'd class Bombeck and Art Buchwald in the same category though both wrote on different topics. Buchwald was popular in India in the eighties and early nineties.

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  3. Oh, I've been a fan of Bombeck for a long time, Prashant. I'm so glad that you discovered her work. It's very sad that we lost her too soon...

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    1. Thank you, Margot. Fortunately, her books are easily available and I have already collected four or five of them. I read that she also wrote a widely popular column called "At Wit's End" which has since been compiled into a book.

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  4. I thought I must have read at least one of her books, Prashant, and I certainly know about her writing. Maybe I read her magazine articles. By the time she published her first books, I was in the midst of a divorce and would not have found her humor appealing (most likely). Maybe someday I will try one of her books.

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    1. Tracy, in-between serious novels I read a lot of light stuff, mostly humour. I like Bombeck's writing though I have not read all of her books. I'd like to read her newspaper column "At Wit's End" someday.

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  5. I've read one of her books but it seems decades ago? I can remember the humor but I am wondering whether I mixed it with someone else.

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    1. Mystica, I have not read many contemporary humour writers though there was a time when I used to read Art Buchwald and Dave Barry without fail.

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  6. I have read and enjoyed Bombeck, but I'm sure there's a lot more of her work to discover, including this one.

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    1. Moira, she has a nice take on many issues, like families, for instance, that would resonate with most people.

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  7. Completely new name for me Prashant - but I know exactly what you mean, you need a voice like this to turn to every now and then!

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    1. Sergio, I have enjoyed her humourous books for some years now. I think she has written a dozen books or so. If you like light reading mostly based on real-life situations then you might want to give her work a shot.

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  8. Prashant – That kid’s quote really got to me. Thanks for the thoughtful post.

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    1. You're welcome, Elgin. I absolutely love wit and humour in books and films.

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  9. What a pleasant surprise to see a book by Erma on the list. Your review made me feel so nostalgic, Prashant, I think I'm going to have to find something by her ASAP to ease the pang. Thanks, buddy.

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    1. Mathew, you are most welcome. I'm glad I discovered her books when I did. Never too late to read anything. I think I have got four of her books and I will be looking for her other titles.

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  10. Cheers for bringing her to my attention, Prashant.

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    1. You're welcome, Col. If you enjoy light reading occasionally then I recommend Bombeck. She wrote for the entire family.

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