A"" is for ""Arbitrary"" in this abecedarian agglomeration of 26 (A to Z) occasionally amusing attacks on assorted...



A"" is for ""Arbitrary"" in this abecedarian agglomeration of 26 (A to Z) occasionally amusing attacks on assorted aggravations. From talk radio to the free-form griping so prevalent on the Internet to numerous bestselling jolly jeremiads, America seems increasingly to be dominated by a strangely passive culture of complaint. We're all as mad as hell, but we're not going to do anything about it. Like many of our modern complainers, Steinberg (Complete and Utter Failure, 1994, etc.) is perfectly content to cavil and kvetch, diagnosing all manner of societal ills from ""Advertising"" to ""Zealots."" But when it comes to remedies, he has painfully little to offer. Satire used to be a healing art, a savage cure for grave indignities. Now, as happens here, it is reduced to empty angst. Satire is also supposed to be funny, but except for a few distant lightning flashes of wit such as a terza rima parody of Dante, Steinberg usually rises no further than the level of affable drolleries. He also beats a stableful of dead horses. From ""Bureaucracy"" to ""Elvis"" to ""McDonalds"" to ""Politicians,"" he rushes in where no one fears to tread, rehashing the same old comic platitudes: McDonalds has ""greasy, lukewarm burgers""; ""the first aspect of families which makes them so annoying is that you are stuck with them."" Of all the letters of the alphabet, Steinberg seems to treasure ""I"" far above the rest. No matter the subject, he invariably manages to twist it back to himself. So we are treated to extended digressions on his weight, his life as a reporter, his wife and child, his parents. Steinberg does have a few shrewd perceptions, some of them original, and if he'd written in Hawaiian--with its twelve-letter alphabet--they might have been enough to flesh out a satisfying rant.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1996


Page Count: 256

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1996

Close Quickview