Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Review: Tales Too Ticklish to Tell by Berkeley Breathed

Tales Too Ticklish to Tell: Bloom CountyTales Too Ticklish to Tell: Bloom County by Berkeley Breathed
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Several months ago, I found a pile of Bloom County books at a library sale. Of course I snatched them up. I have fond memories of reading these when they were new, though I didn't understand a lot of the punchlines at the time.

In Tales Too Ticklish to Tell, Breathed's style was pretty well cemented. When you think of Bloom County, you think of these character designs, and this type of humor. It's bitingly sarcastic, a little absurd, and allows for no sacred beliefs to go untouched. Media scandals, TV evangelists, scapegoating, gun control, short attention spans, and objectification are all examined and skewered in turn.

As with Loose Tails, what surprised me was not how dated the jokes are (and some of them really are), but by how well some of them hold up. If you ever need a reminder that the media has always been lazy and sensationalist, look no further than its depiction in Bloom County. The characters regularly comment as they watch the news or read the paper, and we see how their local paper distorts what it hears to make an attention-grabbing headline. Above-the-fold scandals were the clickbait of their day.

There are places where the author lets his unconscious biases show, but, for the most part, the satire is evenly doled out. Some of the characters lean liberal or conservative, but they're all poked at in equal amounts. And, when the ultimate man's man, Steve Dallas, is taken and turned liberal, he's an object of ridicule, and his old friends are horrified. If one considers Opus the author's mouthpiece, then it's clear which way the author leans, but an argument could easily be made he's not.

I don't know how much entertainment value these comic strips have for generations who didn't live through what they parody, but, for someone who can remember most of what they discuss, it's fun to revisit them. They hold up surprisingly well, and finally understanding jokes that flew right over my head when I first read them is gratifying.

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