Friday, October 14, 2011

Shiftless Little Loafers

Susan Orlean (b. 1955)
From The 50 Funniest American Writers: An Anthology of Humor from Mark Twain to The Onion

This past week The Library of America published its latest anthology, The 50 Funniest Writers, edited by Andy Borowitz. Story of the Week previously presented one of the book’s selections, “The Ransom of Red Chief,” written during the first decade of the twentieth century; this week we present a story from the final decade. It’s merely a coincidence that both selections feature younger members of our species; while O. Henry describes a ten-year-old who terrorizes his kidnappers, Susan Orlean offers her post-Swiftian take on the problem of babies and what to do with them.

Susan Orlean was born in Cleveland, “back when the Indians were still a lousy team, and before they became a really good team and then again became a somewhat lousy team.” She has been a staff writer for The New Yorker for two decades, a tenure which followed gigs at Rolling Stone and Vogue. Among her several books is The Orchid Thief (1998), a narrative about orchid poachers in Florida and the inspiration for the movie Adaptation, written by Charlie Kaufman and directed by Spike Jonze. About her latest book, Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, she writes, “After digging through hundreds of pages of archives and files and photographs, I came to understand that this was not just a story about a dog, or even the many different dogs who make up the Rin Tin Tin legacy; this is a story about a beloved icon who has played a role in decades of American popular culture.”

You can read more of Susan Orlean's writing at The New Yorker or follow her on Twitter.

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QUESTION: Why don’t more babies work? Excuse me, did I say more? I meant, why don’t any babies work? After all, there are millions of babies around, and most of them appear to be extremely underemployed. . . . If you don't see the full story below, click here (PDF) or click here (Google Docs) to read it—free!

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