The Gone series has this. Drake burns frogs, microwaves a puppy, and draws pictures of weapons.
Juvenal (second century A.D.) uses this now and then in his satires. Most of the time his examples actually escalate (adultery, murder, murder of close relations) but now and then he throws in this trope, as in listing the dangers of living in Rome as "conflagrations, collapsing buildings, poets reciting in the month of August". Which makes this one Older Than Feudalism.
Appears also in Candide: or, Optimism. It fits particularly well due to the dry and dispassionate tone of the narrative. After the titular character slays the Jew, who was a joint owner of Cunegonde (Candide's love interest), the Inquisitor, the other joint owner, sees this upon entering:
Entering, he discovered the whipped Candide, with his drawn sword in his hand, a dead body stretched on the floor, Cunegonde frightened out of her wits, and the old woman giving advice.
The unfortunate people sentenced to Public Execution in Lisbon after the earthquake: "a Biscayan for marrying his godmother"; "two Portuguese for taking out the bacon of a larded pullet they were eating"; and "Dr. Pangloss, and his pupil Candide, the one for speaking his mind, and the other for seeming to approve what he had said."
In her non-fiction book, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, Mary Roach describes her experience at a mortuary college embalming lab. Anyone who enters the blood "splash area" has to wear plastic and latex to protect against "HIV, hepatitis, stains on your shirt".
David Simon, in The Corner, spends over 400 pages chronicling the horrific conditions children in West Baltimore have to put up with. He then offers this observation during a playground football game:
In Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's Good Omens, begins a section with a list of phenomena commonly thought to be caused by demonic influence: such as "wars, plagues, [and] sudden audits".
There's also a mention of how people are attracted to costumes and new activities, such as dressing up in sheets and lynching people, or dressing up in jackboots and shooting people, or dressing up in tie-dye jeans and playing guitars at people.
The back-cover blurbs for books in A Series of Unfortunate Events list five or more events, props, or characters, a few of which (usually but not always the last) are often something harmless-sounding, such as "a doll named Pretty Penny" or "a bad casserole". Some of the later books subvert this by making the last item on the list something more dramatic— such as "a surprising survivor of a terrible fire".
This is re-subverted when some of the harmless-sounding items are actually very important and dangerous, like "a sugar bowl", while some of the dangerous-sounding items, like "Chabo the Wolf Baby" are harmless.
And don't forget the carnival freaks from book 9: a hunchback, a contortionist, and an ambidextrous guy.
Speaking of examples from the ninth book, while discussing which part of a ferocious beast is to be the most feared, Snicket writes, "Some say the teeth of the beast, because teeth are used for eating children, and often their parents, and gnawing their bones. Some say the claws of the beast, because claws are used for ripping things to shreds. And some say the hair of the beast, because hair can make allergic people sneeze."
From Book the 13th: "Sooner or later everyone's story has an unfortunate event or two, a schism or a death, a fire or a mutiny, the loss of a home or the destruction of a tea set."
Let's face it, Snicket loves this trope, and uses every opportunity to parody and lampshade it. The real life Snicket (Handler) does this too, often referring to his own books with the trope.
In Men at Arms, Nobby finds a Klatchian Fire Engine, which is banned by three religions. A footnote adds that five more religions have embraced it as a holy weapon to be used on infidels, heretics, gnostics, and people who fidget during sermons.
In Interesting Times, "Teach" Saveloy introduces Cohen the Barbarian thusly: "Doer of mighty deeds. Slayer of dragons. Ravager of cities. He once bought an apple." Though actually buying an apple instead of stealing it is quite an accomplishment for a member of the Silver Horde.
Night Watch has "Truth! Justice! Freedom! Reasonably-priced love! And a hard boiled egg."
In Going Postal, Moist is tested by the Order of the Post to see if he's worthy of becoming the new Postmaster. Moist rhetorically wonders "What's the worst that could happen?", Mr. Groat explains, "The worst that could happen is you lose all your fingers on one hand, are crippled for life, and break half the bones in your body. Oh, and then they don't let you join."
Unseen Academicals has Glenda realizing that the romance novels she voraciously reads are actually rather dull and formulaic: "It's absolutely guaranteed that, for example, an exciting civil war or an invasion by trolls or even a scene with any cooking in it is not going to happen."
A piece of background text in the first Artemis Fowl book states that Fowl Manor has survived "war, civil unrest and several tax audits".
Aldous Huxley, The Devils of Loudun (1952). “No man, however highly civilized, can listen for very long to African drumming, or Indian chanting, or Welsh hymn-singing, and retain intact his critical and self-conscious personality. It would be interesting to take a group of the most eminent philosophers from the universities, shut them up in a hot room with Moroccan dervishes or Haitian voodooists, and measure, with a stop watch, the strength of their psychological resistance to the effects of rhythmic sound. Would the Logical Positivists be able to hold out longer than the Subjective Idealists? Would the Marxists prove tougher than the Thomists or the Vedantists? What a fascinating, what a fruitful field for experiment! Meanwhile, all we can safely predict is that, if exposed long enough to the tom-toms and the singing, every one of our philosophers would end up by capering and howling with the savages.” (p. 321) of the Penguin 1975 reprint
Dave Barry Slept Here describes the years between 1963 and 1968 as "A Long String of Bummers," starting with President John F. Kennedy's assassination, followed by the election of goofy-looking President Lyndon Johnson, the Vietnam War and its associated controversies, more assassinations and riots, and Gilligan's Island being canceled. The same book describes The Great Depression as "an era of unemployment, poverty, social turmoil, despair, and—worst of all—Shirley Temple movies."
Harry Potter's Gilderoy Lockhart: "Order of Merlin Third Class, Honorary Member of the Dark Force Defence League and Five-Time Winner of Witch Weekly's Most Charming Smile Award."
And he thinks that last one is his greatest achievement ( it actually is), which of course makes Harry's detention in that book all the funnier. "Thought you'd make an entrance, didn't you? Well, it's not quite the Most Charming Smile Award, but it's a start, Harry, it's a start!"
A variation from the same series: during the Ministry's smear campaign against Dumbledore in Order of the Phoenix, he joked that he didn't care that they strip him of all his awards and honors, unless they take away his Chocolate Frog Card.
At the beginning of Prisoner of Azkaban, there's a nice example of an inversion: "Harry Potter was a highly unusual boy in many ways. For one thing, he hated the summer holidays more than any other time of the year. For another, he really wanted to do his homework, but was forced to do it in secret, in the dead of night. And he also happened to be a wizard."
Another example comes from Order of the Phoenix on a sign at St. Mungo's Hospital. The Plant and Potion Poisoning department deals with "Rashes, Regurgitation, Uncontrollable Giggling, Etc."
In Christopher Fowler's THE VICTORIA VANISHES: "Whenever the cadaverous Home Office security supervisor became involved in their affairs, babies cried, women cowered, innocence was punished and blame was wrongly apportioned."
In Zen and the Art of Faking It San is trying to figure out where mysterious yin-yang posters all around school came from: "Maybe his English teacher had put them up to go along with their reading on Daoism. Maybe somebody in another class had put them up as part of a project. Maybe a race of alien beings had sent them as a message of brother hood to all earthlings."
As Dionysus says in Percy Jackson and the Olympians: "The world will fall, the gods will die, and I will never get a perfect score on this stupid machine."
This also occurs when Percy described The Fields of Eternal Punishment. "... I could see people being chased by hellhounds, burned at the stake, forced to run naked through cactus pathes or listen to opera music."
In The Last Olympian, Percy describes the effects of Camp Half-Blood's magical borders like this:
"Our beach is on the North Shore of Long Island, and it's enchanted so most people can't even see it. People don't just appear on the beach unless they're demigods, or gods, or really, really lost pizza delivery guys. (It's happened— but that's another story)."
Skulduggery: 'Murder, conspiracy to murder, attempted murder and, I don't know, possibly littering.'
In Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, Marcus describes to a judge how he attempted to overthrow the Department of Homeland Security, disrupted an entire city causing millions of dollars in damage, set up an illegal gathering which caused near-riots, and beat up a girl in order to steal her phone. The judge says, "You stole a phone"!?
"If once a man indulges himself in murder, very soon he comes to think little of robbing; and from robbing he comes next to drinking and sabbath-breaking, and from that to incivility and procrastination." Thomas de Quincey, Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts, an Essay
In Dan Gutman's novel Back in Time with Thomas Edison, one of the characters, Ashley Quadrel, is arrested in 1879 for trying to pass off counterfeit money. When arguing his case - that he's a time traveler from the future, and that he's carrying real, 21st century cash - he quips, "I know what's going to happen! There's going to be a World War in 1914, and another one in 1939. There are going to be nuclear weapons that can destroy entire cities. There's going to be a new kind of music called rock and roll!"
In Catch Twenty Two, Clevinger is tried for "breaking ranks while in formation, felonious assault, indiscriminate behavior, high treason, provoking, being a smart guy, listening to classical music, and so on."
Daniel Pinkwater does this a lot. For example, here's a Carl Sandburg-esque glimpse into the pageantry of the greatest festival in the universe, taking place on Spiegel, the Planet of the Fat Men:
The main street of Porky, renamed Blintzni Spamgorod in honor of its former glory, has turned into an endless colorful midway. Merrymakers walk, crawl, hop, slither, fly, and float back and forth all day and all night, enjoying the many pleasant spectacles. There are roast goose jugglers, meteor swallowers, monsters able to turn themselves inside out, many-mouthed musicians who can play fifteen horns at once, pseudo-octopusian fandango dancers, and whistlers from Glintnil. There are mixed beast races, wrestling matches against giant slothoids from Neptune, six-dimensional chess games, screaming contests, and knocking down three milk bottles with a baseball.
In Han Solo at Stars' End when infiltrating a base the droid he is working with hacks a computer and fakes an alarm. Upon being told that, because the computers of the base are all interconnected, he can do it anywhere on base, Solo tells him to sound every alarm he can "fires in the power plants, riots in the barracks, indecent exposure in the cafeteria".
In The Lies Of Locke Lamora, Locke describes his treatment of the bondsmage: "I cut off his fingers to get him to talk, and when he'd confessed everything I wanted to hear, I had his fucking tongue cut out, and the stump cauterized." Cue everyone staring at him. "I called him an asshole, too. He didn't like that."
At the beginning of American Psycho, where a character reads a newspaper: "In one issue... in one issue... let's see here... strangled models, babies thrown from tenement rooftops, kids killed in the subway, a Communist rally, Mafia boss wiped out, Nazis, baseball players with AIDS, more Mafia shit, gridlock, the homeless, various maniacs, faggots dropping like flies in the streets, surrogate mothers, the cancellation of a soap opera..."
In George and Harold's Captain Underpants comics, when the Monster of the Week begins its rampage, a kid will cry for help and name two things the monster just did. An adult will voice concern over the less dramatic one.
Kid: Help! The Inedible Hunk just ate fifteen folding chairs and now he's attacking the gym teacher!
In Sharper Than A Serpent's Tooth, Tommy Oblivion talks to himself as he ponders how time travel might rectify the heroes' predicament, muttering about "divergent timetracks, opposing probabilities, experiment's intent, and whether or not someone's pizza had anchovies on it". But then, he's an existentialist, so maybe this trope makes perfect sense to him....
Invoked in Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock: Ariel, the sylph assigned to protect the fair and noble Belinda, has a premonition of disaster one day, so he assigns a veritable army of sylphs to guard the most important things - such as Belinda's honor, chastity, dress, fan, hairstyle... wait, hold on a sec.
Inverted near the end of the fourth Temeraire book, Empire of Ivory. The titular dragon has received an invitation to a tea party from his Evil Counterpart. This is the exchange that occurs:
Laurence: "There is nothing evidently insincere in it; perhaps she means it as a gesture of reconciliation.
Temeraire: "No, she does not. I am sure if I go, the tea will be very unpleasant, at least my tea will be, and I will have to drink it or look ill-mannered. Or she will make remarks which do not seem offensive, until I have gone away and thought them over; or she will try and have you murdered while I am not there: you are not to go anywhere without a guard, and if anyone tries to murder you, you must call for me very loud."
In Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age, there is a scene describing a fresco portraying previous generations that had to live in a world without nanotechnology. They're said to have had to put up with things like cancer, pogroms, ethnic cleansing, etc., as well as running with scissors and... heating a cold house with charcoal briquets.
From Dune: In Fremen society, when a man defeats another man in combat he receives that man's wife, home, and coffee set.
Subverted in Maggody and the Moonbeams, where Arly Hanks states that she avoids arguing with people armed with shotguns, rifles, handguns, crossbows, or even spatulas. The spatula seems like the trivial entry in the list ... until readers recall that the chief spatula-wielder in Arly's life is her mother, who runs a bar & grill. And is not lightly to be argued with, if Arly wants to live on something besides canned soup that day.
Straight example from Mischief in Maggody, from a teen bluntly told to leave by a (fake) psychic:
Carol Alice: Do you think she saw something terrible about me in the sand? Like I was going to die tomorrow or get hit by a chicken truck or flunk out or get thrown off the cheerleading squad?
In the Night Watch novel Twilight Watch, Anton is discussing the crimes of the historical figure Gilles de Rais that got him burnt at the stack. They were raping and brutally murdering hundreds of children... and not paying his taxes. Note, in this case, Anton isn't really using the trope for humor- it's more like he's sarcastically noting that the latter was what got the authorities after him; you could get away with a lot as a Medieval aristocrat.
The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul repeatedly mentions that King's Cross Station after dark is an awful place, full of "muggers, pimps and hookers, drug-pushers and hamburger salesmen".
The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary - actually a book about how one of the biggest contributors to the Oxford English Dictionary was criminally insane and went to jail for murder.
"And there were hundreds of singular events experienced by individuals: creatures moving in the shadows, voices and screams from the sewer grates, milk souring, cats scratching owners, dogs howling, and a thousand people woke up to find that they no longer cared for the taste of chocolate."
In the last chapter of The Third Day, The Frost, Ellie is examined by a doctor in New Zealand who sums up her various injuries sustained during the war: "Shock, cracked vertebrae, fractured petalla, malnutrition, cuts and abrasions, acute anxiety state, headlice."
From the blurb of And Another Thing...: 'Arthur Dent has been blown up, reassembled, cruelly imprisoned, horribly released and colourfully insulted more than is strictly necessary.'
Inverted in Jasper Fforde's Lost In A Good Book by the Goliath Corporation who demand an employee of theirs be returned to them so he can "face a disciplinary board on charges of embezzlement, Goliath contractual irregularities, misuse of the Corporation's leisure facities, missing stationery...and crimes against humanity."
Played straight when Acheron Hades lists his hobbies as murder, torture, and flower arranging.
Sookie describing Pelt in Dead to the World "...whom I despised because she had been cruel to Alcide, insulted me grievously, burned a hole in my favorite wrap -oh- and tried to kill me by proxy. Also she had stupid hair.
That quote proves to be Foreshadowing, after she nearly got killed because she took part in a reality TV show...
In Notes from the Overfed, a short story by Woody Allen, a character is asked by his uncle if he believes in God. He answers: "I do not believe in God. For if there is a God, then tell me, Uncle, why is there poverty and baldness? Why do some men go through life immune to a thousand mortal enemies of the race, while others get a migraine that lasts for weeks?"
In A Look at Organized Crime, also by Allen, it's stated that "illicit activities engaged in by Cosa Nostra members included gambling, narcotics, prostitution, hijacking, loansharking, and the transportation of a large whitefish across the state line for immoral purposes."
In The Know-It-All, A.J. Jacobs reflects on the wisdom he's gained from reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica and remarks that humans "have created poverty and war and Daylight Saving Time."
In the Jeeves and Wooster novel Right Ho, Jeeves, Bertie mentions a girl who criticized his "manners, morals, intellect, general physique, and method of eating asparagus".
In the Stephen King novel The Dead Zone, when Johnny Smith becames known as a clairvoyant, Dees, a reporter from Inside View magazine (a tabloid about supernatural things) comes to him and offers him a contract, while cheerfully admitting that he doesn't believe in any of the things his magazine writes about. Johnny gets quite upset over this:
Johnny: You asked me what I thought. I'll tell you. I think you're a ghoul. A grave robber of people's dreams. I think someone ought to put you to work at Roto-Rooter. I think your mother should have died of cancer the day after she conceived you. If there's a hell, I hope you burn there.
Dees: You can't talk to me like that! You're fucking crazy! Forget it! Forget the whole thing, you stupid hick son of a bitch, you had your chance! Don't come crawling around...
Johnny: Furthermore, you sound like you're talking through a Saltine box. (kicks him off his porch)
In Perelandra by C. S. Lewis, one exchange between the protagonist and the devil's servant provides an excellent example of this, as Ransom quizzes his opponent on things he'd do for the mysterious spirit guiding him. First he asks if Weston would murder, then if he'd betray English to the Germans, and then - most awful at all - if Weston would publish lies as research in a scientific periodical. When Weston agrees to that last one, Ransom exclaims, "May God have mercy on your soul!"
Given that in the first book Weston was a very committed scientist, the last example shows how far his soul has been twisted
In Crown of Slaves, the reasons for Jessica Stein's being "off" are given as being too quick at judging the political value of respects paid, too punctual in brushing well-wishers off, too fawning of bad witticisms and having front teeth that are too big. Or wearing high-heeled sandals to the funeral.
In the Animorphs book Visser the charges against the former Visser One are read during her trial, followed by the different forms of death penalty associated with each crime. It ends almost incongruously with "... treason by murder of subordinate Yeerks, which carries a sentence of exile to punishment duty."
Kvothe, at one point in his narrative comprising the majority of Patrick Rothfuss's The Wise Man's Fear, mentions that in order to survive a trip, he "begged for crusts, stole a man's shoes, and recited poetry." He's been poor his whole life, often starving, but as a musician he's disdainful of poets, finding them useless and indulgent, so for him poetry was actually much, much more humiliating than begging and stealing.
In Expect Resistance, Crimeth Inc.'s field manual, on the topic of War or Revolution:
"Even if we could kill every last rapist, C.E.O., head of state, police officer, and every housemate who won't do the dishes, that violence would remain in the world..."
In Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations: Watching the Clock, Agent George Faunt suffers a breakdown, attacks his colleagues, takes a researcher hostage and turns the DTI branch office into a seige zone. He also makes a lame time-related pun. Dulmur notes this last in a manner suggesting it's almost as serious as the other offenses.
"Arrest?" said Felftis Brack cooly, backing away. "On what charges?"
"Charges of fraud, embezzlement, blackmail, smuggling, false imprisonment, conspiracy to commit murder..."
*Brack tries to flee, but runs into some sports players he hired and never paid, who throw him into a lake*
"...And non-payment of the New Lake thousandsticks team," finished the constable.
Quoth King Elend, in The Well Of Ascension, on why his kingdom is in dire straits: "The Assembly is a mess, a half-dozen warlords with superior armies are breathing down my neck, barely a month passes without someone sending assassins to kill me, and the woman I love is slowly driving me insane."
Audrey, Wait! has this (part of a) list for breaking up with Evan:
1) He smokes too much pot.
2) He's always "practicing" or "gigging"
3) He says "gigging"
The Goddamn Bible, by Shawn Taylor
WARNING: Contains actual content from the Bible, including verses on incest, child murder, rape, bestiality and talking animals.
In Tribulation Force, a news report states that the Antichrist's armies have killed thousands of civilians and caused a traffic jam.
In Armageddon, the crimes that Chloe Steele has been accused of by the Global Community upon her capture is being expelled from her university for making threats against the faculty, aborting two fetuses (and being suspected of killing a third daughter), while naming her son Jesus Savior Williams.
In the second Esther Diamond book by Laura Resnick, Dopplegangster, Esther screams at the Big Bad for his various horrible deeds while hitting him, ending with the fact he nearly ruined her audition. To be fair, she's an actress and that was pretty important for her.
"He's killed himself," she cried. "It's unfort'nate stiggs done over again - there goes another counterpane - god pity his poor mother! - it will be the ruin of my house. Has the poor lad a sister? Where's that girl? - there, Betty, go to Snarles the Painter, and tell him to paint me a sign, with - "no suicides permitted here, and no smoking in the parlor;" - might as well kill both birds at once."
In the Frederick Forsyth novel Icon, a man is considered unsuitable to be in line for the Russian throne because he's too old, he has no children (which means no one can come after him), he screws around too much, including with his servants, and *gasp* he cheats at Backgammon.
In Michael Flynn's In the Lion's Mouth, Oschous recounts how, after a governor's house was burned, the boots leveled a town, and the man responsible wasn't even in it, because the over-governor could imagine arson and rebellion, but not leaving your licensed township.
"We'll do terrible things! We'll assassinate kings! Burn towns!"
"Incite riots! Print pamphlets!"
Played charmingly straight in Gerald Verner's 1938 mystery novella The Clue of the Green Candle:
Trevor Lowe: "You are going to stand your trial, Sheldon, for two murders, an attempt to poison me, and falsifying the Council's town planning scheme."
In Revenge of the Stainless Steel Rat, the Hero at one point impersonates an enemy pilot and his "superior" attempts to arrest him on charges of "Looting and fraternising with the enemy. And making a 10g landing. Which isn't a capital offence, unlike the first two"
"Look around–we don’t make anything anymore, we’ve mortgaged our future to China, and the Apologist-in-Chief goes on world tours just to bow before foreign leaders. Worse, the L.A. Four Seasons Hotel doesn’t even have a dedicated phone button for the Spa. You have to dial an extension! Where did we lose our way?!"
In Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon, we learn that much of Qwghlm Castle has been burned down over the centuries "by a combination of Barbary corsairs, lightning bolts, Napoleon, and smoking in bed."
Black wizards don't just grow up like toadstools, you know. Someone has to teach them complicated things like summoning demons, ritual magic, and clichéd villain dialogue.
In Gulliver's Travels, Gulliver gives a Long List of various evil things and people that were absent in the country of the Houyhnhnms. After listing "gibers, censurers, backbiters, pickpockets, highwaymen, housebreakers" and "dungeon, axes, gibbets, whipping-posts, or pillories" among other things, he ends with "dancing-masters".
"All ships systems are nonfunctional," Lagemann explained cheerfully. "There is extensive unrepaired battle damage in most areas. The ship cannot move under her own power, and in fact has no power except for portable emergency systems. Most of the ship is uninhabitable and requires survival suits or combat armor for access. The crew is a tiny fraction of that needed for safety, security, and operation. As you can tell, there's no working gravity. And, um, the brightwork hasn't been shined." "I can understand the rest," Geary said with mock severity, "but unshined brightwork? Where are your priorities?