It is said that the pun is the lowest from of humor. I never agreed. It’s hard to say if San Francisco writer Peter Delacorte and his partner, illustrator Michael C. Witte, have taken the pun to its lowest position on the wit scale or elevated it to a very clever, lofty level in their very funny work, The Book of Terns.
In 1978, Delcorte and Witte – who has drawn many covers for The New Yorker and has done work for myriad magazines over the years – authored The Book of Terns. Yes, terns are seabirds that can be found in San Francisco Bay, as well as other places.
Delacorte invented every outrageous play on the word “tern,” as Witte matched him with an inventive and hilarious visual joke on every page. I like “Tern on a Dime.” Yes,
it’s a sketch of a tern on a dime. The work is quite infectious, hard to put down. Delcorte and Witte have a way of outdoing themselves over and over – as you “tern” each page.
The book gathered a great following all those years ago.
“Peter and Michael have been prodded endlessly by friends and fans over the years in hopes the book would see a second edition,” says Bonnie Baron, who’s married to Delacorte and is working on promoting the new volume. In January, Delacorte and Witte reissued this tome of terns through Ternaround Press.
The Book of Terns is an example of “how far can you go with a play on words?” These two gentlemen take it much further than you’d imagine.
Delacorte is the author of Time on My Hands and is a former Jeopardy! champion. As well as his work with The New Yorker, Witte has produced over 9,000 funny illustrations for publications such as Time, The Atlantic and Sports Illustrated.
The Book of Terns: available at Books Inc. Marina, 2251 Chestnut Street (near Scott), (415) 931-3633, www.booksinc.net; Books Inc. Laurel Village, 3515 California Street (at Locust), (415) 221-3666, www.booksinc.net/SFLaurel ; Browser Books, 2195 Fillmore Street (at Sacramento), www.browserpublishingsf.com, 415-242-6194; and www.bookofterns.com