Jokes for the Apocalypse


"We choose our prisons because they are safe, then spend the rest of our lives planning escapes."

This collection, made up of two linked novellas (Luce and Jokes for the Apocalypse), is David Carpenter's first book.

It was chosen by McClelland & Stewart to launch their SIGNATURE series of quality paperbacks in 1985. It was runner-up for the Lampert first book award in 1986.


Jokes for the Apocalypse cover


Critical Response

It's rare to encounter novellas in current fiction, and the two contained in this volume . . . should be appreciated because they represent that form well. The long short story makes demands of shape and tension that are difficult for a writer to fulfill; David Carpenter's success is a tangible comment on his fictional ability.

- Aretha Van Herk

With the release of his first booklength work of fiction . . . slush-pile foundling David Carpenter vaults from the ranks of the proven but obscure into the front row of the current Can-Lit class. [He] has done a superb job of storytelling in the two novellas that make up this distinctly (and deliciously) prairie product.

- Scot Morison

Jokes for the Apocalypse . . . is an extremely accomplished first book. Carpenter is a good story-teller and his prose is lucid and refreshing. He has great sympathy for his characters. Very original, a unique voice.

- Guy Vanderhaeghe

While there is a great deal of comedy in these stories, it would be misleading to suggest that they are pure comedy. Perhaps Carpenter's greatest skill is his ability to balance and combine the comic and the pathetic, which is the hardest of all to manage. He does manage it and is able to combine all his separate effects and swirl them deftly into great dramatic climaxes that mark him as a master story-teller.

- Joan Givner

Jokes shows how the novella form can succeed. Carpenter's two stories . . . are wonderfully written, with quirky humour and a bit of mysticism, what science fiction fans call a sense of wonder. Carpenter's skill as a poet makes the language and imagery clear and fluid, and his symbolism fresh.

- M. Anderson

David Carpenter's writing has come a long way since [his first] story appeared in Fiddlehead . . . in 1982. Confusion has developed into complexity, and an amusing talent for describing weirdos has become a mature ability to create odd but thoroughly human characters.

- Laurel Boone

I like both novellas in Jokes for the Apocalypse. “Luce” is probably my favourite of the two, if I had to pick a favourite. (But I’m glad I don’t, because I like the title novella too.) One of the things I like about “Luce” is the way Carpenter tells the story, the thing he does with time, gradually getting to the story, with the firm grounding in the present. And, of course, the fish.

- Raymond Carver


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