Lifelong Dewey

Reading through every Dewey Decimal section.

Tag: satire

843: Candide by Voltaire


843.5: Voltaire. Candide, or Optimism. Translated by John Butt. New York: Penguin. 144 pp. ISBN 0-14-044004-6.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 800: Literature
  • 840: Literatures of French and related languages
  • 843: French fiction
  • 843.5: 1715-1789

If you’re looking for one of the most satirical, rollicking, odd, philosophical, and whimsical novels in history, then you needn’t go any further than Voltaire’s Candide. Voltaire’s canonical 1759 work examines the conflict between optimism and realism, between Old World and New World experiences, and between upper class and lower class conditions. But even these dichotomies are too simple for this work. The title character’s adventures begin when he kisses Cunegonde, a relative of the Baron Thunder-ten-Tronckh and is expelled from the estate with his mentor Pangloss. And then the real fun starts.

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877: The Cambridge Companion of Roman Satire by Kirk Freudenberg


877.010937: Freudenberg, Kirk. The Cambridge Companion to Roman Satire. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005. 318 pp. ISBN 0-521-00627-9.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 800: Literature
  • 870: Latin and Italic literatures
  • 877: Latin humor and satire
  • 877.01: Philosophy and theory of Latin humor and satire
  • +0937: Italian Peninsula or adjacent territories to 476 CE

Satire as we know it was popularized first with the ancient Romans. The satirist Lucilius, writing in the 2nd century BCE, is usually credited as the earliest writer in the genre. Kirk Freudenberg’s Cambridge Companion to Roman Satire cover the length and breadth of the field with articles that discuss the origin of Roman satire, it affect on the social landscape of ancient Rome, and how the genre affected later and current English writing. While each of the authors’ take on Roman satire was interesting, you definitely need to have a bit of actual Roman satire for it to really sink in. This book is a decent supplement to the writing of Ennius, Horace’s satires, Persius’s stoicisms, Juvenal, Seneca, and even Julian and Boethius. It is good to know, however, that satire has survived to the present day. Without it, we wouldn’t have so many great movies today poking fun at all of society’s little cracks. A thick and interesting read.

502: The Man Who Tried to Clone Himself by Marc Abrahams


502: Abrahams, Marc. The Man Who Tried to Clone Himself—And Other True Stories of the World’s Most Bizarre Research and the Ig Nobel Prizes. New York: Plume, 2006. 250 pp. ISBN 0-452-28772-3.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 500: Science
  • 502: Miscellany (General science)

Every year (and every day, sometimes), landmark research is published and the results amaze, shock, or comfort the world. Cures and vaccines and psychological insights are gleaned from meticulous scientific research. But not all science is groundbreaking and world-changing; sometimes it’s just one person or a small group looking into the unlit areas of the world. They prod and examine the natural world for even the most esoteric knowledge, hoping that one day, it will be understand in a much larger context. And even for these off-the-beaten-path researchers, there are yearly awards—the Ig Nobels. Marc Abrahams The Man Who Tried to Clone Himself is a collection of the most delightful, most disconcerting, and most distinguished winners from the last 22 years.

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827: The Foolish Dictionary by Gideon Wurdz


827: Wurdz, Gideon. The Foolish Dictionary. Boston: The Robinson, Luce Company, 1904. 150 pp.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 800: Literature
  • 820: English and Old English literatures
  • 827: English humor and satire

In the same vein as Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary and other humorous compilations, Gideon Wurdz’s Foolish Dictionary is collection of witty definitions and word origins for the masses. Gideon Wurdz (read as “giddy on words”) is the pseudonym of Charles Wayland Towne, who wrote a few others like this, including Foolish Finance and Foolish Etiquette. His quick quips are pretty lame as far as modern humor goes, but many of the entries are good for a chuckle or two even if his faux etymologies are a bit strained. Of greater interest with this book was the experience of reading a volume that was over 100 years old and to see the marginalia and the illustrations of the day.

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051: Good Days and MAD by Dick DeBartolo

051: DeBartolo, Dick. Good Days and MAD: A Hysterical Tour Behind the Scenes at MAD Magazine. New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1994. 275 pp. ISBN 1-5602-5077-1.

Dewey Construction:

  • 000: Computer science, information, and general works
  • 050: Magazine, journals, and serial publications
  • 051: General serial publications in American English

In 1952, William Gaines decided to start a small mildly-amusing comic book to round out his group of publications. When that comic book decided to dodge the censorship code and become a magazine in 1955, MAD Magazine as we know it today was born. When Dick DeBartolo—often considered MAD’s Maddest Writer—sent in a script for a satirical commercial in 1961, Gaines sent back a response on cardboard telling him it had been accepted (and to send more!).  Thus began five decades of comic writing and shenanigans.

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