In “A Hazy Christmas Memory,” a piece from this collection of humor writing, a man struggling to remember an idyllic childhood Christmas discovers that it wasn’t that idyllic after all. The smell of cinnamon, upon further reflection, turns out to have been the smell of stale beer. The narrator also recalls what his parents told him about “Jesus H. Chriminy”: “[T]hough he was a man full of joy and love, at the same time, this man—whom I never met—was deeply disappointed in me on a very personal level.” The subversion of the sentimental and wry observation are representative of Odenkirk’s humor at its best. He mocks the sacred and points out the absurdities in common knowledge, but goes beyond a self-satisfied awareness that he’s being contrarian. He tackles big ideas and engages with their substance, rather than falling back on tropes about pretentious intellectuals or blind believers. A disappointing minority of these pieces take an idea that might be worth a chuckle—what if Martin Luther King, Jr. gave a speech for which he was completely unprepared?—and drag it into tedium. Overall, though, Hooey provokes laughter that makes you tilt your head to the sky, and perhaps pause to think after you’ve caught your breath.
–Published October 7th by McSweeneys (at which, full disclosure, I was once an intern)