Larry David Humor; Fairies and Mushrooms


Ask The Paris Review

I’m a huge Curb Your Enthusiasm fan and totally addicted to Larry David’s brand of car-wreck-that-I-can’t-stop-watching humor. I was wondering: can you think of a book that induces the same cringe-worthy yet high-inducing experience? —Hannah, NYC

That, Hannah, I can tell you in two words: After Claude. While I can’t pretend Iris Owens’s 1973 novel of a humilating New York summer is great all the way through, the first two-thirds are so great, and so cringe-inducing that I’d be remiss not to bring it up. And given that it takes place during a particularly blistering heatwave, anyone on the eastern seaboard will be able to relate all too well.


Do you believe that when a circle of mushrooms spring up around a tree, it’s proof that a fairy lived and died there? —Kim


I broke up with my boyfriend and he told me I was never going to love anybody because I’m Blanche Dubois (!). I’m really upset, but primarily because he meant it to be insulting. I can’t help but identify with a desire for incessant fantasy—does that make me a bad person? Or more pointedly, which character can I accuse him of being? —NOT Stella

Well, without knowing the specifics of the case, it’s hard to know what would be especially apt (or, for that matter, especially cutting). I know one friend who was really insulted to be compared to The Razor’s Edge’s Elliott Templeton. I once called someone an Ellsworth Toohey, which has the added sting of invoking Ayn Rand. But as to all-purpose digs? Well, I can’t imagine anyone would be thrilled to be likened to Uriah Heep.

As to your other question: craving escape through fantasy certainly doesn’t make you a bad person, just human. And if you have a tendency to retreat too much from reality, well, being aware of it is probably a good sign, no? But as a general rule, I don’t think it’s a good idea to put too much stock in anything said in the heat of a break-up—particularly when literal drama is invoked.

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