Again, as in So This is Depravity (1980), Baker's ""Observer"" columns from the N.Y. Times add up to an agreeably...



Again, as in So This is Depravity (1980), Baker's ""Observer"" columns from the N.Y. Times add up to an agreeably undemanding, mildly fetching collection; of the 100 or so recent short-takes here, only a few lift above or beyond the small-smile-of-recognition category. There's less on politics this time around, with an overlong but still-amusing response to the MX controversy taking top honors: ""We propose building 250 moveable structures so precisely like the Pentagon that no one can tell our fake Pentagon from the real thing and to keep all of them, plus the real Pentagon, in constant motion through the country."" Some of the many columns on faddish language and clichÉs are limp or dated, but Baker scores neatly with ""the salutation menace"" (Dear Friend of the Arts, Dear Potential Handgun Victim, etc.)--and with a double-barreled whimsy that imagines a homespun Grandpa envisioning the glories ahead circa 1906. (""Co-chairpersons, boy. Mark my words, you're going to live to see some real live co-chairpersons."") New York City life inspires a handful of standouts, too, including taxi-passenger backlash and the late Francisco France at the Motor Vehicle Bureau: ""I think I get the message here and I am ready to proceed to Hell without further argument."" And, while pieces on encroaching hi-tech and other tired subjects don't hold up too well, the assorted media continue to provide Baker with his most reliable parody-targets: celebrity exposÉs (""Until now I have thought it indelicate to disclose that I am Mae West's twin sons""); Gothic romances; cat books (""How to Trap a Nazi With a Cat""); reek-music reportage; TV commercials (including an imaginary one for the firm of Burger & Warren); Kremlinology--with the ""only time will tell"" refrain on the arrival of Yuri Andropov; and Brideshead Revisited. (""I adored Groomskull with its 359 rooms, 10,000 acres of good fox-hunting land and hundreds of servants who opened and shut the doors behind me without the least noise or the slightest complaint about being paid only six shillings a month."") Add in the usual complement of serious/nostalgic sketches, and it's a pleasant, civilized, uninspired grab-bag--but one that's likely to benefit from the deserved bestsellerdom of Baker's Growing Up memoir.

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 1983


Page Count: -

Publisher: Congdon & Weed--dist. by St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1983

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