Mandi’s Reads: Tell all the truth but tell it slant

Mandi's Reads: Tell all the truth but tell it slant

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant –

Success in Circuit lies

Too bright for our infirm Delight

The Truth’s superb surprise

“Tell all the Truth but tell it slant” is one of my favorite lines of poetry. Like Emily Dickinson, I believe in telling the truth, but at an angle. My angle is humor. I have found the truth is far less frightening when I can make a joke out of it.

A few years ago, I became extremely ill. I lost a bunch of weight, my hair fell out, and I was tired all the time. My left eyelid receded into my head at the same time that its corresponding eyeball protruded out of its socket. My heart was beating in excess of 140 beats per minute, twice as fast as it should. On the morning of my 21st birthday, I got the diagnosis: an endocrine disorder. I started taking medicine and promptly gained thirty pounds in just a few weeks. There I was, balding, chubby, and bulgy-eyed. Fortunately, this was when I made one of the best decisions of my life. I chose to react with humor and put on my big girl panties, both figuratively and literally. (They literally were my big girl panties because throughout my weight gain, I had insisted on wearing the same Target size small underwear that I had worn through my illness-induced emaciation. It wasn’t until the chafing grew unbearable that I accepted reality and bought some Target big girl panties, and my God! I still remember the sheer bliss of putting on underwear that actually fit). Everything about my situation became a joke to me. Taking a cue from balding men the world over, I brushed my lank strands of hair over my bald patches. I referred to my goiter (Oh, did I forget to mention my goiter?) as my Mandi’s Apple. Looking at my illness through the veil of laughter helped me see my situation more accurately. Because I was able to make light of my situation, I saw the truth of just how lucky I was; I had everything I needed to make it through. (It didn’t hurt that, since the day of my diagnosis was my 21st birthday, my best friends took me out that night and got me drunk. I’m talking hammered. Just massively wasted.)

August 16th is National Tell a Joke Day, but for me, it could just as easily be called Tell All the Truth but Tell It Slant Day because that is what the best jokes do. The best jokes force us to confront a truth, no matter how mundane or earth shattering, and they give us our truthful medicine through the spoonful of sugar that is humor. Here are some books full of jokes that “tell all the truth, but tell it slant.”

 

Ready Player One

By: Ernest Cline

One of my favorite forms of humor is referential humor, and this novel is chock full of references to video games, computers, Sci Fi movies, Sci Fi books and every other form of geekery imaginable. Needless to say, I loved every word of it. This novel paints a world so complete you’ll feel as if you’ve been on a virtual vacation after you’ve finished it. It also raises some interesting questions about our growing dependence on virtual escapism, and how much it separates us from the physical.

It’s 2044. Most of humanity spends its time out of the real world and in a virtual one called OASIS. OASIS is a vast virtual reality filled with every experience you could desire. There are entire planets devoted to your favorite books, movies, video games, especially ones from the 1980s. Yet, more than the ability to escape the real world’s poverty, disease and warfare, OASIS offers the chance for people to become multibillionaires. Ever since the inventor of OASIS died and left his entire fortune to the person savvy enough to follow his trail of digital breadcrumbs, the entire virtual community has been obsessed with solving the first clue and finding the key that will let them begin the race to wealth and power. No one has even come close, until a teenage boy stumbles upon the solution to the first clue. He is suddenly thrust into a battle he was never expecting, a battle that will not only put his virtual life at risk, but his life in the real world as well.

Reads Well With: Rush 2112 and Tang

 

A Queer and Pleasant Danger

By: Kate Bornstein

This memoir is my summer obsession, and its subtitle describes it far better than I ever could: “The true story of a nice Jewish boy who joins the Church of Scientology and leaves twelve years later to become the lovely lady she is today.”

Kate Bornstein, the author of A Queer and Pleasant Danger, has had one epic and fascinating life, and she lays all of it out for us lucky readers. At the beginning of the memoir, Kate tells the reader that she has tattooed the words “I Must Not Tell Lies” on her hand, and Kate does not tell lies. She tries to, then always catches herself, and ends up telling her truths through the slant of humor. The writing in A Queer and Pleasant Danger is so vivid and gossipy that the full impact of what you’re reading doesn’t immediately hit you. Such is the level of Kate Bornstein’s gift that she is able to talk about Borderline Personality Disorder, Scientology, anorexia, parent-child relationships, gender politics and queer culture in a way that is humorous, yet makes you feel the full range of her emotions right along with her.

Reads Well With: David Bowie and a pitcher of martinis

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