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A Lexicon of Literacy, a Rancorous Reportage, a Concise Curriculum of Cool

by Greg Proops

Pub Date: May 5th, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-4767-4704-0
Publisher: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster

A charmingly random omnibus from a wisecracking know-it-all.

Proops, a veteran of the popular improv show Whose Line Is It Anyway? and host of The Smartest Man in the World podcast, presents a compendium of small essays on his favorite topics, ranging from Satchel Paige to Ovid, from Blood on the Tracks to All About Eve. Listeners to the “Proopcast” will enjoy the author’s pithy prose, though fans of less-intellectual humor may become bored. Some of the verve and snark Proops displays through his podcast gets lost in the transition to prose, but this is often the case when comedians translate their performances to a book. Nevertheless, many of the author’s lines hit home: “History is a series of lies written by icky white guys who beat their maids”; “Baseball at its best is church with spitting.” The author’s passion for his subjects comes through loud and clear, and Proops has a knack for the snappy one-line description. For example, Marc Bolan of T-Rex “delivers the short sexy warlock stuff right to the edge of the enchanted guitar forest.” Major league pitcher Ryne Duren “drank like an alcoholic fish.” Alain Delon in Le Samourai is “like a jungle cat, if a cat smoked weed and wore a trench coat.” Johnny Cash’s music is “the real world exposed on a train track shuffle.” Proops sprinkles the book with a variety of fascinating tidbits; it was a surprise to learn that Mick Jagger wrote the lyrics to “Sympathy for the Devil” after reading Marianne Faithful’s copy of Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita. But caveat lector: if you don’t have an affinity for baseball, poetry and film noir, this book probably isn’t for you.

Snarky history and piquant criticism as delivered by the smartass in the back of the classroom.