You could drag a thick novel to the beach this summer and ponder the great questions of what is man and what is his place in the universe? Or you could keep this gem in your backpocket and fill your spare time working through more practical issues. Like who would win a fight between Muhammed Ali and Bruce Lee? A fight between an artist and a critic? The lesbian of your porno versus the lesbian in your fourth grade class?
The problem with many humor books is that once you get the premise, it gets old before youve turned too many pages. I feared that when cracking Jake Kalishs Santa vs. Satan: The Official Compendium of Imaginary Fights. Worse, it seemed stale derivative of the seminal South Park internet cartoon in which Jesus and Santa Claus fought, or Celebrity Deathmatch, the claymation rip-off that began running in 1998 on MTV. But I have to say that with all due respect, this is the best waste of your time available in print this summer. Kalish has mined a great wealth of face offs. Theres Han Solo versus Indiana Jones. Metrosexual versus eunoch. Self-help guru versus failure. Manic depressive versus obsessive compulsive. Not surprisingly, theres stoner versus drunk. Some of the battles are there for the prospect of enjoying violence, like Grimace versus Barney. Insignificant academic versus less significant academic rival. There are fights by polar opposites who should confront one another. Lepers versus hypocondriacs. Conspiracy theorists versus conspirators. Thomas Edison versus MacGyver. Married gay couple versus straight divorced couple. Each match up includes relavant strengths and weaknesses, and Kalish weighs in with his own expert analysis. Perhaps analysis is the right word, because he drifts towards the more telling match-ups. He lines up the one you love versus the one youre with. The virgin versus the whore. And the quest for disillusionment: his dad versus your dad. Yes, violence would be sad if it werent so funny, so laugh till it hurts. And like any good promoter, Kalish will laugh his way to the bank.