June 29, 1987 12:00 PM

by Frank Gannon

Imagine a comic writer who combines the sensibilities of Bill Murray and Art Buchwald. That’s a fair description of Gannon, the oblique stylist who writes humor for, among other magazines, the New Yorker, Philadelphia and Southern. Many of the short pieces in this volume begin with news items. “A Terrible Saga of Entrees,” for instance, is inspired by a Newsweek item about Hell’s Angels getting into legitimate businesses and muses about a biker gang running a catering service: “You mess with these dudes and you’ve bought nothing but trouble—lumpy béarnaise, hollandaise that curdles nine times when you stir it, and your windows blown out with chocolate mousse.” A note about comedian Alan King leads to a rewrite of Wuthering Heights, in which Heathcliff turns into a kind of stand-up comic and cracks bad jokes: ” ‘I asked him whether he was doing anything for his cough.’ ‘Why should I?’ he said, the candlelight playing menacingly over his dark countenance. ‘It’s not doing anything for me.’ ” In the title piece, inspired by Sylvester Stallone’s comment that he would like to make a movie biography of Edgar Allan Poe, Poe is turned into a boxer—his manager is Baudelaire. Poe denies that he’s a drug addict, then notes that Keats and Shelley died young: “But it wasn’t because they were drug addicts. It was because they didn’t train.” Gannon is sometimes more obscure than seems necessary; still, it’s hard to dislike someone who entitles a story “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Californian.” (Viking, $14.95)

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