NONFICTION

Away with Words: An Irreverent Tour Through the World of Pun Competitions

Harper Perennial. Jun. 2017. 288p. ISBN 9780062495600. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062495624. LIT
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This funny little book results from Berkowitz's (editor & staff writer, Fast Company) yearlong dive into the subculture of pun competitions. First he attends, documents, and finally performs himself in the monthly Punderdome pun competition in Brooklyn, then moves on to explore similar doings around the country, including the annual O. Henry Pun-Off World Championships in Austin, TX. Berkowitz first attended Punderdome at the invitation of a friend and was overwhelmed by the unimaginable scene of 500 people screaming and cheering because someone made a pun. As the author begins to participate himself, he takes readers behind the scenes and introduces us to the punsters, not only their punning performances but describing their offstage lives as well. He attends a humor research conference and details his disappointing, unfunny conversations with the world's foremost pun expert and visits the sets of popular TV shows such as Bob's Burgers and Veep, whose producers rely on puns. Of most fun is Berkowitz sharing in detail his own nerve-wracking performance at the World Championships, as well those of his competitors.
VERDICT Recommended for passionate readers of books about words and wordplay.

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