Faux-authoritative rundowns on subjects like “The Science of Kindness” or near-death experiences suggest the daft compendia of John Hodgman or the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, as Perini presents, in accomplished literary deadpan, many assorted “facts” (Learn how Hoagie, the chef for the Earl of Sandwich, accidentally invented the corndog), new coinages (“fignorance” is “ignorance about figs”), and a host of advertisements (including solar-powered flashlights and for a university in a parallel universe.) Especially amusing are the abundant footnotes, an inscrutable quiz, a series of “Missed Connections” personals, and Perini’s lists of standard, hidden, and anonymous acts of kindness, which edge between goofy (“Offer to go clothes shopping for your children’s school principal”) and cheerful dada: “Late at night, put cream cheese on the low hanging leaves of a cherry tree.”
The only clear throughlines are Perini’s straight face and restless invention, which means HA! is best taken in brief reading sessions, one short essay or section at a time. This is a book to browse, laugh at, puzzle over, and let surprise you. Readers who relish poker-faced parody from authors whose humor tends toward a frisky oddness—and eschews the divisive and mean-spirited—will discover much here that stirs a smile.
Takeaway: A truly funny compendium of invented facts, ads, advice, and other madness.
Great for fans of: John Hodgman, Merrill Markoe’s Late Night with David Letterman: The Book.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A-