cover image The Mysterious Secret of the Valuable Treasure

The Mysterious Secret of the Valuable Treasure

Jack Pendarvis, . . MacAdam/Cage, $21 (187pp) ISBN 978-1-59692-128-3

As the saying goes, "dying is easy, comedy is hard." This facile collection of funny-guy stories by Pushcart Prize–winner Pendarvis mocks convention by piling together mock author blurbs, mock contributor's notes and mock publisher catalogue copy, plus a novella-length detective story that mocks the very idea of narrative and structure. Pendarvis's writing isn't without its pleasures; at his best, the author displays a wit comparable to the best found online at McSweeney's. And when he allows his characters to develop and his ideas to coalesce, as in "The Pipe," a story about a disc jockey who buries himself alive as a promotional stunt and the security guard and EMT who are assigned to watch him, his writing can be affecting as well as funny. But other times his stories read like the sketch that didn't make the cut on Saturday Night Live . For instance, "My High, Squeaky Voice" is a two-and-half-page piffle about a guy with a high, squeaky voice who desperately wants to do voice work for audiobooks. And readers know pretty much everything they need to know about "Dear People Magazine, Keep Up the Great Cyclopes Coverage" by the time they've finished the title. Pendarvis has comic talent, but he tends to squander it on the merely silly. (Nov.)