Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Paperback of the week: Isaac Asimov's Lecherous Limericks

I wasn't aware of Isaac Asimov's naughty side until I found this 1975 Fawcett paperback at an estate sale, its saucy cover a beacon amid piles of books about Christianity. But I'm not surprised since all the best sci-fi is at least a little bit tawdry, right? Asimov, it turns out, wrote five volumes of dirty limericks and at least one ribald humor book, The Sensuous Dirty Old Man. I consider this just one more credit earned toward my estate-sale continuing education degree—yet another arcane fact to tuck away till needed (e.g., crossword puzzle, Jeopardy appearance, nerd-cocktail-party fodder).

At some point in my adolescence I was also fond of writing limericks (innocent ones) but it's hard to see the genre ever making a comeback. Then again, haiku had its hipster-ironic moment (or am I making that up?), so I guess anything is possible. I gotta say, as much as I want to love this book, it's a stretch. A hundred limericks is a lot of limericks, even if some are "boldly illustrated." Here's a sampler:

"A Poor Example"
An Olympian lecher was Zeus,
Always playing around fast and loose,
With one hand in the bodice
Of some likely young goddess
And the other preparing to goose.

"Zoological Comparison"
A stately giraffe, when he necks,
Or a hippo, when he's having sex,
Aren't worth a tut-tut
To the bellowing rut
Of the great Tyrannosaurus Rex.

"Reward of Industry"
A woman most gorgeously stacked
Thought screwing a glorious act.
So, for finding a niche
For those who were rich,
She was diamonded, minked, Cadillacked.

A luscious young student at Vassar
Was hailed as a top-of-the-classer.
But not in her studies
You old fuddy-duddies
For she shone as a great piece-of-asser.

That's just the tip of the iceberg—a phrase I'm sure Asimov could've double-entendred nicely—but you get the gist. His material is pretty dated, meaning there are more rape jokes than the average person who wasn't a Republican congressman of a certain age would find palatable. The coolest thing about this volume—apart from the blank pages in the back where you're invited to "write your own limericks"—is that on the page opposite each limerick, Asimov offers up a little critique and/or anecdote. Who could write a hundred limericks let alone remember the circumstance surrounding the writing of each? For the Vassar limerick, he recalls giving a lecture at Smith College and how excited he was to stay in the (all-girls, obviously) dormitory, till he saw his room, which had only one door—and it opened to the street. Buzzkill!

Pity the poor sensuous dirty old man, if you can.

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