Most of us, even the most culturally literate, will hustle to Wikipedia to check on a name or two when reading “The Lost Clerihews of Paul Ingram.”
Who among us, for example, knows who William Whewell is? Ingram does. He loved the name so much — “it’s the best name I’d ever seen” — that he saved it so he could write a clerihew about the 19th-century English philosopher and theologian.
One of the things Ingram says he wanted to do in this collection was to “mulch” as much culture as he could into one book. You’ll find Lady Gaga next to Mao Zedong, Marcel Proust alongside Bob Marley.
The clerihews are fun to read and light as a summer breeze, with a few gusts thrown in for, well, gusto. The most delightful are those that take a moment to “get.” Don’t expect highbrow culture, though you need to know your writers and history to understand the clever humor. In one clerihew, Ingram makes his readers mispronounce Proust — something he admits he loves doing:
Liked brussels sprouts,
But it was eatin’ cookies
Got him writin’ bookies.
Some of the clerihews and illustrations are for grown-ups, so those of delicate sensibilities will need to be selective. He says he left out some clerihews he considered over-the-line. He might put those on the Internet as “Clerihews After Dark.”
Until then, we have this slim volume to entertain us, thanks to North Liberty publisher Steve Semken, who decided to save and share these almost-lost gems with the world.
•What: Launch party for Paul Ingram’s “The Lost Clerihews of Paul Ingram”
•When: 5 p.m. June 23
•Where: Prairie Lights Cafe, 15 S. Dubuque St., Iowa City