Monday, November 7, 2011

Book Review: Nightlight: A Parody (2009) by the Harvard Lampoon

Nightlight:  A Parody (2009)
The Harvard Lampoon

Nightlight is certainly not the Harvard Lampoon's first attempt to satirize popular fiction. I well remember seeing a copy of Bored of the Rings in a bookstore's humor section decades ago, its bright, illustrated cover in close imitation of those recognizable Tolkien covers from the 1970's. I even glanced inside, noted that Legolas was rechristened Legolam, and I silently nodded my approval.

Some time later, I was very excited to enter college and learn that my school had its own humor magazine and I quite naturally envisioned myself toiling happily in the service of scathing parody. That fantasy ended abruptly when I saw actual copies of the publication and was immediately repulsed. My career as a writer and artist for a college humor publication ended as abruptly as it started, most likely on the same day. I decided to pursue something else more consistent with my own sense of decorum and to leave the funny business to people who in my opinion didn't know what was funny.

But enough about me. Twilight seems to invite all sorts of parody. The movie "Vampires Suck" comes to mind. I don't think much of the film, but I did at least like the fact that the Oregon town was renamed Sporks. As with Legolam, I approve of clever name alterations. It must be from all those years of reading Mad magazine. The bright young lads at the Harvard Lampoon, in contrast, have named their town Switchblade, which frankly I just don't get. Our heroine is named Belle Goose instead of Bella Swann. Get it? Maybe today's crop of eager Harvard writers just aren't so good with clever names.

Parts of Nightlight are indeed funny, though, whatever the names. The humor comes at you suddenly in individual smart turns of phrase and is not sustained across, say, a paragraph much less a page.  In other words, the humor basically goes from gag to gag, and some of the gags are quite funny, in the way a cleverly-turned sentence can be uproarious, but there isn't much continuity. Plot isn't terribly important, as you're just supposed to recognize what part of Twilight is being made fun of. But what the parodies seem to forget is that Twilight, for all its gushing, adolescent, bloodthirsty, impossible romance, is a pretty engrossing book, and the sequels, in my view, are even better. Ultimately, any parodies can easily mock Twilight's silly romance, but they don't share any of its strengths.


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