Emily (having finished devouring Nick Hornby): I think I need something else really funny to read. But I don't want just any old thing. I want something I know will make me laugh. Hard. A There's Something About Mary sort of laugh (a movie that had her on the floor between the seats doubled over in pain she was laughing so hard).
Bob: Yes, you do. No more The Faerie Queene right now.
Emily: There's Three Men in a Boat, but I always read that when I want something to make me laugh.
Bob: Maybe you should read Emma.
Emily doesn't know what to say. She thought he was listening until now, but he couldn't possibly have been. Yes, she knows he has seen her, many a time, reading/listening to Jane Austen. She has been known to let the occasional giggle escape while doing so, and Emma does happen to be her favorite. But really. If we're talking about tears-streaming-down-the-cheeks, fall-out-of-the-chair laughing, what he's seen her do while reading the likes of David Rakoff, Mary Roach, Sarah Vowell, and the aforementioned Jerome K. Jerome, she can't imagine how Jane Austen has sprung to his mind. (Note how David Sedaris is intentionally missing. You are surely all sick of references to him in this blog, but he is King of Consistently Getting Emily to Laugh Like That, so he really belongs in that list, too.)
Bob (noticing that Emily must be giving him a very strange look): ...at least for that one scene.
And suddenly, it dawns on Emily. He's not referring to Austen's Emma. He is referring to Wilton Barnhardt's Emma, as in Emma Who Saved My Life. "The scene" is the scene that had them both in stitches when they read the book, the "Truckload of Dreams" scene. It's when Gil finally gets a job in the theater (what he has come, as a young dreamer, to NYC to do), a theater he describes as "barely the theater," a place where one "winds up in a bunny suit" (if memory serves well), and we are treated to a history of that theater, most memorably a description of the theater's attempt to do "Black Theater," popularized in the 1970s by such hits as "The Wiz."
Emily: Ohhhh, you don't mean Austen! You mean Emma! What was the play again? "Truckload Full of Dreams," right?
Bob: I don't know, but whatever it was, it was one of the funniest things I've ever read in a novel. (He starts to laugh. Soon, they are both laughing uncontrollably, despite the fact neither one of them remembers the details of the scene, or maybe even the title of the play, all that well.)
Bob (once they've pulled themselves together): But just read that one scene. It's not really a funny book.
Emily: I know. We read that before we even had the apartment in NY, didn't we?
Bob: Did we? Didn't we decide to ride all the subways in NY because of that book? We never did.
Emily (wistfully): I know. (She decides to leave Emma on the shelf for now.)