The Daily Heller: A Romp in Guarnaccia’s Pun House

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Steven Guarnaccia is a punster on such a precarious ledge of wit, any missteps are catastrophic. I know—I’ve traded pun-jabs with Guarnaccia for decades, and when the bomb-bay door fails to open … well, suffice to say, Guarnaccia has mastered visual punning with explosive results.

He also has been making books for Corraini Editore for many years that apply this artistic gift—so it is no surprise the Italian publishing house would release a book celebrating his quick-draw pun-play. Even the cover bows to his verbal/visual hijinx: Interior Desecration, laden with graphic puns and full of playfulness.

The thematic glue that holds the collection of sketches and finished pieces together are architecture, home, interior decoration, furniture, appliances and, of course, style. Small in physical size, this delightful collection of work reveals how difficult it is to make a pun that is 100 percent pure, rather than flat (two-thirds of a pun, remember, is PU).

I don’t know how linguistically popular puns are in Italy. But Corraini seems to have enjoyed Guarnaccia’s for over two decades. My favorite series of his children’s books for the publisher are puns retelling classic tales through the lens of design: “I realized that many classic children’s stories were thinly disguised tales about design,” Guarnaccia writes in his introduction. “I conceived of The Three Pigs as a story about three architects. I figured the wolf was one, too, but an iconoclastic one who wanted to blow down the old guard.” And about another pun opportunity, he notes: “I’m not much interested in fashion but I love clothes, and so I looked to stories about the things we wear for my next book. Cinderella’s glass slipper and ball gown started me thinking about the other clothes in her closet, and her fairy godfather was clearly a fashion designer.” The most recent of this series is The Emperor’s New Clothes, “with the devious tailors trying invisible suit after invisible suit on the witless emperor.”

This is not to imply that the sum total of Guarnaccia’s output is pun-based, but he’s always had a knack for language and a gift for translating ideas into ironic conceptual images. Guarnaccia is not, however, captive of puns—he’s the captor and this book is, um, captivating.