Quick and quirky, Simon Rich’s collection of short, humorous essays, Ant Farm and Other Desperate Situations will probably take you about a half an hour to read, but it’s unlikely that you’ll forget his work.
Rich has a talent for taking unusual perspectives on ordinary situations and imagining them in the funniest possible light, and yet with a knack for hitting on observations and questions that many of us probably have.
What is life like for the ants in the ant farm? What would the world be like if punishments were handed out like they are in hockey? What are the disadvantages of being invisible?
My favorite pieces in Rich’s collection were those that revolved around school and childhood, including one about the day he got his first calculator, an essay about “what goes through my head when I am home alone (from my mom’s perspective)” and his idea of situations (there are only 2) in which he imagines that high school math will be useful to him as an adult.
Writers stuck for ideas will appreciate Rich’s solution to this problem: imagine weirdness all around you, ask ridiculous questions, formulate possible answers, and write about them without worrying whether or not anything you say follows the rules of logic.
Cathy Belben lives in Bellingham, Washington, where she earned early fame for her award-winning fourth grade essay, “What the flag means to me” and later wrote bad rhyming poetry for the Whatcom Middle School Warrior Express. She recently survived a year in Hollywood writing for the show Veronica Mars. She’s returned to her normal life as a high school teacher and librarian, a triathlete, a weightlifter, a yogi, a dog’s mom, a cat’s slave, an artist, a napper, a nanny and an auntie. She’s thankful every day for everything.