“Life Seemed Good, But ….” is an e-book collection (available from Smashwords.com) of short comic essays and fables written by my fellow Kenosha Writers Guild member, Richard Bell, and is unlike anything else you are likely to read. Quirky and imaginative, Bell’s fractured fairy tales are funny and defy convention. Many of the stories lead you to believe that there is some profound moral or lesson to be learned; however, more often than not, they instead lead to an absurdly underwhelming conclusion (“This is how the legend of Timmy the smelly, bald, and fat porcupine began” and the unforgettable moral, “Never interfere with dancing magical trolls who have matches” are two examples).
Bell’s humor is soft and surreal and intelligent, even when revealing the twisted stupidity of his characters. If you read closely, you’ll find, buried in the nonsense, clever references to T.S. Eliot, Lewis Carroll, and, in one of my favorites, to “On the Waterfront” in a story about a tongue tied shoe named Terry that could have been a contender.
Bell writes with a stand up comic’s sense of timing, yet he refuses to be constrained by the typical setup-punch line structure of the traditional joke. Rather, his humor is of the Monty Python – Steve Martin variety – he presents situations, images and asides that are just intrinsically funny, and make you laugh out loud without knowing why you are laughing. For example, one of the stories, “Revenge”, begins this way:
In a long procession marched the villagers up the dark, remote mountainside. Some carried torches, some had pitchforks, and one had a 3/8″ socket torque wrench.
“Life Seemed Good, But …” evokes James Thurber, Robert Benchley, and Ogden Nash, yet at the same time is the voice of a distinct and unique comic mind. A disturbed mind, maybe, but distinct and unique and funny none the less.