This week’s local library find of randomness? Away With Words: An Irreverent Tour Through the World of Pun Competitions. Written by Fast Company reporter Joe Berkowitz, Away With Words is a mostly-entertaining romp through the world of pun competitions — from Punderdome to the O. Henry Pun-Off. Along the way, we get some insight into the history and linguistic complexity of puns, interesting asides on punny TV shows from Bob’s Burgers to Veep to @Midnight, and an introduction to the colorful characters that populate the world of competitive punning — but we also get a bit too heavy of a dose of Berkowitz himself.
Berkowitz passes up any pretense at journalistic objectivity here and instead immerses himself into the world of competitive punning from Brooklyn to Austin, competing on stage, discussing his own unpreparedness (in great depth), and traveling along with some of the competitors, as a competitor. The book would have been better served, however, had he focused more on the players and less on himself and his own internal musings.
Those interested in word-related competitions might be better served by more tightly focused titles such as Word Freak, on competitive Scrabble players — and I couldn’t help thinking throughout that Away With Words might work better as a documentary a la Word Wars, since so much in punning depends on delivery and timing.
That said, however, Away With Words should prove entertaining to fans of the genre who want to move beyond basic “dad puns.” (My Dad, by the way? A huge punster in his own right, and I think he would have enjoyed this book.) Away With Words also mentioned in passing a couple of other books I now have on request at the library, including (insert appropriate groan here) John Pollack’s The Pun Also Rises.
Hear for yourself
Head more! Check out the archives of the Punk Assed Pun Cast (podcast), hosted by a couple of the award-winning punsters Berkowitz features.
What are you reading this week?
What have you been reading lately? Tell us all about it! And, you can browse all of the What’s Rachel Reading? book reviews here.