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ALA, Humor and Cancer

July 5, 2008

ALA, our national professional association (the American Library Association, www.ala.org), held its annual conference in Anaheim the past several days. One thing that’s great about these conferences is the chance we have to learn about new authors. The headliner at a program of Friends of Libraries U.S.A. was Paula Poundstone, and she’s hilarious. But there were four other comics and one of them touched me . . . viscerally.

Robert Schimmel I didn’t know before Sunday. He’s pretty earthy & raw with his comedy. But his book Cancer on $5 a Day* (*chemo not included) is a tremendous testimonial of his struggle with cancer back in 2000. His 11-year-old son had died of cancer a few years before. Schimmel was Stand-Up Comic of the Year in 1999, and his pilot for a 13-episode TV sitcom had been picked up by Fox. Then he got non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. To his doctor, he said “Just my luck, I get the one not named after the guy.”

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At the end of the program, Robert Schimmel’s wife and two boys, who were born after his cancer was in remission, came up front. He said, “Here are the kids I wasn’t supposed to have.” Read this book and give it to a friend. It’s funny, gut-wrenching, and heart-wrenching.

The other comedians at the program, and their recent books, are:

Beth Lisick, Helping Me Help Myself: One Skeptic, Ten Self-Help Gurus, and a Year on the Brink of the Comfort Zone

Dan Kennedy, Rock On: An Office Power Ballad

June Casagrande, Mortal Syntax: 101 Language Choices That Will Get You Clobbered by the Grammar Snobs – Even If You’re Right

Paula Poundstone, There’s Nothing In This Book That I Meant to Say

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