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Kugelmass – Number 1

Let me admit this up front: I normally am not a big fan of literary humor. It’s not that I don’t think funny and literary can exist side-by-side; Mark Twain proved that the two mix well a long time ago. But this first issue of Kugelmass is truly funny, and truly enjoyable.

Let me admit this up front: I normally am not a big fan of literary humor. It’s not that I don’t think funny and literary can exist side-by-side; Mark Twain proved that the two mix well a long time ago. But this first issue of Kugelmass is truly funny, and truly enjoyable.

The first contributor name to catch my eye was Mike Birbiglia. He came to Central Michigan University during my time there as an undergraduate and he was crying-in-your-seat funny. And, not surprisingly, so is his essay in this issue. His piece, “Patti and the Bear,” is about his strange passion for all things bear, and his sister who shares that passion. Of course, being a bear story, some hilarity and danger ensues. Birbiglia proves he is as good a writer as he is a comedian:

At age eight, I started to have this recurring dream that there was a bear walking in the front door of my house. Literally opening the front door—which is the scariest part: a bear with opposable thumbs. If a bear can open a door, sky’s the limit! I don’t have a plan for that one. My plan was the door.

The other essays are great, as well. One of them, by Steve Almond, is “Bad Poetry,” and yes, it is filled with it. As a poet myself, I can absolutely and embarrassingly identify with this one. Almond describes his thought process as a younger writer, and even shares with us some of the wonderfully horrible poems he used to write. Here is an example of one of them, called “Kafka At The 50 Yard Line (Shady Side)”:

Cockroach and quarterback
what a curious pair
One craves pork rinds, the other
flings pigskins into air

Cockroach and quarterback
to wed them, do we connive?
But think, now, think
both scurry to survive

All the stories and essays in this issue are equally funny, and each has its own flavor and unique plot. One thing I was worried about when I opened the journal for the first time was a lack of diversity throughout, but I was pleasantly surprised. In a story by Kurt Luchs in which a group of scientists are attempting to study these language-learning/speaking monkeys, one ape texts another: “ur so 6y! omfg, will u b my bubu?” And, as you can probably guess, that story, “Speak No Evil,” is one of the funniest in the issue.

The plots themselves, of the fiction section, are almost always outrageous. In one by Teresa Milbrodt, called simply and aptly “Sphinx,” a woman purchases a sphinx (as far as I can tell, it is the sphinx) to protect her home. This is a world, the reader must understand, in which people can buy these sorts of things. The main character’s neighbor, throughout the story, is considering the purchase of a unicorn. And unicorns, obviously, are “pretty and would look nice in the front yard. The neighbor lady figured unicorns would not be so fickle.”

The essays are engrossing, the stories entertaining, gripping. There’s even a ticker that runs across each page, busting out funny one-liners that can distract you from your story or essay for a moment. What’s not to love about that?
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