I remember reading A Modest Proposal at a young age and finding it funny—because our class had the background on the satirical piece itself. Audiences when the piece dropped weren’t so lucky and were quite disgusted by its implications, but the joke might’ve been lost on them, because the author, Jonathan Swift, was an expert satirist.

At the time Jaws was published, Benchley was an accomplished writer but wasn’t making enough money even though he had been a junior speechwriter for Lyndon B. Johnson and had written as both a staff writer and freelancer for large publications. His last ditch effort involved getting together with a few publishers and pitching some ideas including a nonfiction book about pirates and one about a man-eating shark.