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Mountain Man Dance Moves – The McSweeney’s Book Of Lists</i> by The Editors of McSweeney’s

If this was the beginning of a Miyazaki movie, it would be a montage of bored office workers, each with cheeky-eyed sprites escaping their wasted minds, flitting out the windows and through the skies of the globe to gather together in space as one enormous totally sweet unicorn with a GSOH.


A totally sweet airbrushed picture of a sweet unicorn on a mountain with the moon in the background. There might be rainbows involved also.


A series of lists. They range in length from a couple of pages to a handful of words. The topics are totally random. Some are written by the editors of McSweeney’s (a publishing house with a great website) but most, I think, have simply been sent to the site by anyone who feels like it. (You can check daily-ish updates here BUT keep in mind that this book is the cream of the crop. Of lists. As it were.)

The good

Funny books, what rare and curious beasts they are. Almost like unicorns. I’ve got sufficient fingers on one hand to count the books I could truthfully call “hilarious”, yet there aren’t stars in the sky enough to equal the number of times I’ve read that word in blurbs. My personal definition of hilarity is not: May cause minor smirking. Perhaps that’s what’s causing confusion. Of course, sense of humour is as subjective as any other taste and every bit as potentially varied: calling Dave Barry (as one critic did) “the funniest man in America” is like calling Jimmy Page the best musician in Britain—not necessarily dishonest (if totally unprovable) but quite meaningless to anyone who prefers saxophone to guitar, only listens to classical music, or has a phobia of enormous hair.

If I tell you, therefore, that this is the funniest book I’ve read for a decade, I suppose all I’m really saying is that, should we share a sense of humour, particularly involving the arrangement of words on paper, then you may find this book quite amusing, possibly more so if you drink beer while you’re reading it and are doing so in a place where you’re not really meant to be laughing until some of your organs hurt.

With this in mind, I can truthfully report that I haven’t laughed as loud and long at any written material since I read Spike Milligan’s The Looney when I was thirteen (which I guarantee wouldn’t happen now—it’s one enormous Irish joke, for a start). To actually be “hilarious”, I think a book needs to be funny enough to induce not smiles or snorts but real laughter AND the laughs need to be so regular and/or well paced as to cause a snowball effect of paralysing mirth, and frankly there are very few authors of any stripe who can manage that. As a long time aficionado of the ‘humour’ section I can report that in all but the very biggest bookshops it’s a sorry little shame-hole indeed, full of quarter-century-old Garfield reprints, joke collections you could put together with Google in a day and, if you’re lucky, a book by P.J. O’Rourke written during the Reagan administration. Which is odd, really, given that most people read for pleasure, at least as much as they watch movies for the same reason, and yet ‘Comedy’ is the longest shelf in the video shop. Perhaps that’s why there are so many blurbs stressing the pants-desecrating, eye-watering, don’t-open-it-on-the-subway qualities of bland works of fiction—publishers know humour is a good sell (it can separate a genre book from the pack, for instance), but they want their novels at the front of the shop on the glossy racks, not ten bookcases back between Bored of the Rings and God You Shit Me, Charlie Brown.

To put it simply: This is very, very funny indeed, and if you find any of the things listed below even mildly amusing I must stress that you at least have a flip through this, should you see its arresting Unicorn-based cover enlivening a shelf at your local literary providore.

  • Unicorns
  • Late Show Top Ten Lists
  • Dave Barry
  • Unicorns
  • Daria
  • How To Tell If Your Child Is Using Unicorns
  • Statements Which Are Better Applied To A Casino Than Your Mother
  • Adjectives Rarely Employed By Wine Writers (Chunky, Supercharged, Wine-a-licious, Alcoholy)
  • Inappropriate Names For Second-hand Furniture Dealers (Knobs, The Ottoman Empire, Great (One) Nightstands, Stool Samples)


The bad

  • Not long enough
  • Neither is the book
  • Not enough jokes of that caliber
  • Insufficient unicorn-related material
  • Caused me to send emails to all my friends telling them to buy it, when half of them probably wouldn’t even like it, the dicks
  • Now I have to wait frigging ages before I can read it again
  • Will make your life unfunny by comparison

What I learnt

Why are you still looking at this? Make with the going and finding.

In short

Title: Mountain Man Dance Moves—The McSweeney’s Book Of Lists
Author: The Editors of McSweeney’s
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 0307277208
Year published: 2006
Pages: 224
Genre(s): Humour

This review was written by Tom Vaughan. Tom has his own website, which contains many other reviews and strips and art and other fun stuff here

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