I’ve always had a thing for expressions that people use which are not to be taken literally. One of my faves is when somebody tells me about a book that they were reading which was so good, that they couldn’t put it down until they finished it. I mean, I find it hard to believe that most people would not put a book that they were reading down, if only momentarily, say to flush.
Today, though, I did read an entire book literally without it leaving my hand, and found the experience to be quite satisfying. Having a bladder the size of a walnut, I wisely chose a short volume with relatively few words for this experiment: “One Hundred Great Books in Haiku“, written by former attorney and self-proclaimed haiku humorist, David Bader. I cannot quite recall when or where I bought it, but its format lends it to be terrific bathroom reading material.
If you are unfamiliar with Haiku, it is a clever form of Japanese poetry that typically consists of three lines, with the English equivalent of 5, then 7, then 5 syllables each. Its essence must be cutting, and usually involves contrasting images. It traditionally also includes some kind of seasonal reference. Most importantly, haiku tries to convey, rather than tell, an idea to the reader in as few words as possible. In a word, genius!
Here are some of my personal favourites from the book – may you feel inspired to write one of your own – enjoy!
- Brave New World – Aldous Huxley: Euphoric drugs, sex, | cloning, the past forgotten. | So what else is new?
- Don Quixote – Miguel de Cervantes: Dusk – the windmills turn. | Is the Don mad, or are we? | No, it’s him all right.
- Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift: Thus I was first great, | then small, and much vexed to learn | that size does matter.
- Hamlet – William Shakespeare: ‘His mother wed his | dead murdered father’s brother!’ | Next Jerry Springer.
- Frankenstein – Mary Shelley: A mad scientist | creates a ghastly Monster | who just wants a hug.
- Kama Sutra – Vatsayana: Advice for those in | a difficult position. | First, be flexible.
- Lady Chatterley’s Lover – D.H. Lawrence: On the grounds, fresh game. | On the new gamekeeper, fresh | Lady Chatterley.
- Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov: Lecherous linguist – | he lays low and is laid low | after laying Lo.
- Oedipus Rex – Sophocles: Chorus: Poor bastard. | Oedipus: This is awful! | Blind Seer: Told you so.
- Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen: Single white lass seeks | landed gent for marriage, whist. | No parsons, thank you.
- Robinson Crusoe – Daniel Defoe: Alone for twelve years, | then a footprint in the sand. | Thank God! A servant!
- The Canterbury Tales – Geoffrey Chaucer: Pilgrimmes on spryng braecke – | roadde trippe! Whoe farrtted? Yiuw didde. | Noe, naught meae. Yaes, yiuw.
- The Confessions – St. Augustine: This is just to say | I screwed around. Forgive me. | I enjoyed it so.
- The Odyssey – Homer: Aegean forecast – | storms, chance of one-eyed giants, | delays expected.
- Waiting for Godot – Samuel Beckett: Act I. ‘It’s hopeless. | My boots don’t fit. Where is God?’ | Act II. The same thing.
Who knew poetry could be so much fun on a Monday? And with that, I give you one final haiku, namely my own, as a review of this book. Hope you like it!
- One Hundred Great Books in Haiku – David Bader: I like to read books. | Some are long. And not funny. | Boiled down? Funnier.