• The original hardcover jacket

In middle school my favorite author was Daniel Pinkwater and my favorite book was The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death, which he wrote in 1982. (Lizard Music, Pinkwater’s first young-adult novel, was a close second.) I realize today that my admiration stemmed from how closely I identified with the main characters, a couple of misfit kids who bond over weird movies. Initially “Snarking out” refers to their ritual of slipping away in the middle of the night to see old movies at the 24-hour Snark Theater, but it comes to define a variety of late-night adventures: taking part in public debates, discovering hidden cafeterias, and helping Osgood Sigerson, the world’s greatest detective, find a kidnapped mad scientist. I also realize now that I was drawn to the idea of moviegoing leading to adventures outside the theater—an idea I cherish to this day. But mainly I loved The Snarkout Boys, and Pinkwater’s fiction in general, because it made me laugh so hard. The jokes were unpredictable and they never stopped coming. Here’s a characteristic passage, from the start of chapter two: