Archive for the ‘Books’ Category
John Swartzwelder is arguably best known for writing a good hunk of Simpsons episodes back when they were still considered good. At least, considered good by people I consider good. Fans of the current Simpsons episodes I barely consider at all.
I first heard of his novels on the audio commentaries of my Simpson DVD box sets where the writers, producers, and voice talent of the show would praise Swartzwelder’s influence on the show. They would also pull their hair out as to why he continued to refuse to be on these audio commentaries himself, and occasionally plug his books (there were only two at the time, there are many more now).
I’m mentioning all this seemingly unrelated information because it is actually SUPER RELATED. The Time Machine Did It by John Swartzwelder, is essentially a extremely long episode of The Simpsons. Every paragraph is essentially a set up and conclusion to a Simpsons-styled joke. Main character Frank Burly is ESSENTIALLY Homer Simpson. Well… he is fat, dumb, and lazy like Home Simpson.
…I guess those are the essentials, actually.
Let’s talk about jokes. I like jokes. I’m FOR jokes. And this book? This book here? This book has a book full of jokes inside of it. Are all of them good? Yeeeaaauuummmaaaaaayyyy– no. In fact, I found myself fatigued from the humor about half way through the novel. After all, EVERY PARAGRAPH IS A JOKE. Sometimes some nice scene setting prose would be a nice change of pace, is all I’m saying. Through the fatigue, I still managed to laugh out loud twice. Twice! This is big. David Sedaris, humor writer extraordinaire, has only made me laugh out loud once at this point. So, even though Swartzwelder swings at every available ball and strikes out often, he does manage to hit the occasional grand slam.
As for the plot, if this book were to be translated into an actual episode of The Simpsons, it’d be about five times too long. Swartzwelder’s love of red herrings makes the narrative drag on for long stretches of time but not really feel worth the joke. I can’t tell if Swartzwelder is trying to write in this punishing manner on purpose, to make the fact the reader is putting up with it a joke in itself. If he is, he’s a jerk. If he isn’t, he’s a jerk who needs to learn how to pace a novel. So I suppose for his sake I’ll assume it is intentional.
Speaking of time, the title clearly suggests the presences of time travel in the novel’s plot. The title ain’t lying! There are actually some unique takes on time travel employed with this novel. For example, the inconveniences of being in another time actually take a lot of the glamor out of it.
As a whole, The Time Machine Did It has a slow third act and reads a little too much like it was written in a single afternoon. Still, it’s one of Swartzwelder’s first attempts at writing a novel (as I mentioned, he’s written many by this point) so I’m looking forward to reading another one of his. I want to see him improve. After all, those two laughs he gave me really did remind me of something… Something old… Something familiar… Something that used to be good…