Millman Strikes Again, Thank God!

Book review: “The Last Voyage of Baron Münchausen and other Wayward Tales,” by Lawrence Millman.

Reviewed by David O. Born

Not long ago, I ignored the teaching of Ephesians (5:4; “…and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting…”) and turned to the Humor Times.

Lawrence Millman, Last VoyageI was startled to find Jesus H. Christ hymnself, wearing the traditional cross with nails, supplicating for all to see. His appearance, his second coming, if you will, was for the sole purpose (Yes, I was tempted to write “soul purpose.”) … for the sole purpose of introducing Lawrence Millman’s rendering of their encounter on the streets of New York.

Millman is addictive. I confess the sin of gluttony, having devoured nearly all of his books: tales of adventure in the Arctic, heartfelt lamentations on the destruction of our planet, mushroom chronicles, poems (serious and not-so) … the list goes on.

But back to Jesus.

Unless you frequent the streets of New York and run into a Jesus wanna-be on every corner, you may think Millman’s to be an unlikely scenario. Not so! Such encounters are commonplace with the man. He’s talked with bears and supped with headhunters after all, but those are stories for another time.

How I digress. Millman’s tale of encountering Jesus on the road not to Damascus, but to downtown Newark is but one of several tales he’s just published in his celebrated The Last Voyage of Baron Münchausen and other Wayward Tales.[i] Although Münchausen himself appears in only one of the Wayward Tales, they all have a bit of the Baron in them.

You are familiar with the Baron, aren’t you? He’s a great deal like “you know who.” Münchausen has been resurrected (not once, but many times). The good Baron’s face has not been reported on toasted slices of Wonder Bread, but I once had a fig that bore a remarkable resemblance. And, there’s more! The “Historical Baron” was indeed a real person (Karl Friedrich Hieronymus, Freiherr von Münchausen, 1720-1797) and he, too, was crucified, although in the press, not on Golgatha. Münchausen, soldier, sportsman, raconteur, and downright liar that he was, gained celebrity among Hanover’s aristocrats with tall tales, earning himself dinner invitations to all the right salons (and one Last Supper, I’d guess).

Münchausen owes his lasting fame to Rudolph Erich Raspe, whose life coincidentally resembles that of Millman. A rogue scholar, writer, and sometime social satirist, Raspe published a book purporting to be Münchausen’s tales. Münchausen, amusing character that he was, was not amused. Lawsuits ensued (as they always do). Rather than silencing the parody, the Baron’s legal harassment only prompted other writers to pick up the proverbial torch and run for the gold (money speaks louder than medals).

For the last five hundred years, political pundits, cartoonists, satirists, and humorists have used the Münchausen cudgel to hammer away at social injustice, pomp, and, dare I say it, all ilk of idiots. Thus, Millman joins a long line of irreverent scribes. Accordingly, his “Last Voyage” will almost certainly not be the last we hear of Münchausen.

Donning his Müchausen cloak, Millman shares a séance with Jonathan Swift, explains George Washington’s lunacy, and takes us down a rabbit hole in Wonderland.

Buy the damn book. Read these eight tales. Give yourself the gift of a religious experience.

— David O. Born
St. Paul, MN

[i] Lawrence Millman, The Last Voyage of Baron Münchausen and Other Wayward Tales, NFB Publishing/Amelia Press, Buffalo, NY. 2022

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