I know what you’re thinking: “IvyGate book club? That’s a great idea! I’ve always wanted to read book reviews written by IvyGate editors.” Well, now you can. In what might be a recurring feature, IvyGate will review books by authors with Ivy ties. But that’s not all. Ivygate wants you (yes, you!) to discuss the merits of the selected book in the comments. It’s like we’re all talking about this book together, in some type of….book club.
First up is “Free-Range Chickens” by Simon Rich. I first heard of Simon Rich when a girl I was hooking up with sent me a link to one of his New Yorker “Shouts and Murmurs” pieces. I was really impressed, and told her so. She said, “Yeah, I can’t believe someone our age is writing humor pieces for The New Yorker.” I agreed this was unusual. “I’m sure the fact that his father is Frank Rich helped him get published,” she said. I wasn’t sure who Frank Rich was but pretended I knew about him.
One and a half years later, I’m a reader of Frank Rich’s New York Times columns and have been keeping up with his son’s stories and sketches. In this same time, Simon, Harvard ’07, went from being the editor of the Harvard Lampoon to writing a commercially successful, critically popular collection of humor stories, Ant Farm: And Other Desperate Situations. He’s also a staff writer at “Saturday Night Live.”
Did being Frank Rich’s son help him get to this ridiculously enviable position? Yeah. Definitely. For sure. Is Simon talented in his own right? Yeah, he’s talented in his own right.
There aren’t many writers that cause me to laugh out loud. This is perhaps a function of my not reading enough. That being said, Simon Rich joins a short list of those who can get me to smile and even chuckle on the subway.
I’d like to say Rich’s nonchildhood-related sketches are weaker because they are not drawing on personal experience. But I can’t say this categorically. Rich demonstrates a surprising level of understanding of the workaday life in a “Choose Your Own Adventure” sketch where the reader navigates a day in the life of a 34 year-old software engineer. Rich also writes from the perspective of Count Dracula, dalmatians, frogs and, indeed, free-range chickens. These sketches aren’t as deep or resonant as his childhood-related sketches, but they may be funnier. A series of letters from Count Dracula begging tourists to come to his castle should convince any reader Rich deserves his spot on “Saturday Night Live.”