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FAMILIARITY BREEDS CONTENT

NEW AND SELECTED ESSAYS

Friendly, personal essays in the Jean Shepherd mold.

A warm collection from a writer who loves to play with words.

The prolific, opinionated humorist Epstein offers up yet another collection of essays, from 1978 to 2023, starting off with a wry piece on the significance of jokes—“punch lines from jokes rattle around quite comfortably” in his head “alongside lines of poetry”—followed by an essay on letters—“I adore mail”—followed by a lovely survey of same in literature. He’s as adept at discussing juggling as he is at doing it, and, generally speaking, he believes there are “not two but four kinds of generalization.” The typical Epstein essay is besotted with aphorisms, his and others’. In “This Sporting Life,” this “couch athlete” proclaims his desire “to free myself of my bondage to watching sports.” Epstein easily slides from topic to topic: friendships, being a good guy, the seven deadly sins, especially gluttony, ex-smoker Epstein on smoking, fame, hats, envy (he’s desirous to have a “good name among a select audience of the genuinely thoughtful”), blurbs (“my blurbs truly aren’t worth dying for”), cats or dogs, and short men and women. On aging, he wrote at 50 that he hoped to reach “ninety-seven” (he’s now 86) but sadly confesses he probably won’t “write a novel as long and as good as Proust’s.” Epstein’s effusive about his love of reading. As a young man he began reviewing books for pay—“exhilarating.” In “The Bookish Life,” all “means and no end,” he heaps praise on Willa Cather—the “greatest twentieth-century American novelist.” He closes with a rather censorious essay on taste, confessing to not liking tattoos, rap music, and the inauthentic Bob Dylan, letting him “blow in his own rather pretentious wind.”

Friendly, personal essays in the Jean Shepherd mold.

Pub Date: April 16, 2024

ISBN: 9781668009727

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2024

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WHAT THIS COMEDIAN SAID WILL SHOCK YOU

Maher calls out idiocy wherever he sees it, with a comedic delivery that veers between a stiletto and a sledgehammer.

The comedian argues that the arts of moderation and common sense must be reinvigorated.

Some people are born snarky, some become snarky, and some have snarkiness thrust upon them. Judging from this book, Maher—host of HBO’s Real Time program and author of The New New Rules and When You Ride Alone, You Ride With bin Laden—is all three. As a comedian, he has a great deal of leeway to make fun of people in politics, and he often delivers hilarious swipes with a deadpan face. The author describes himself as a traditional liberal, with a disdain for Republicans (especially the MAGA variety) and a belief in free speech and personal freedom. He claims that he has stayed much the same for more than 20 years, while the left, he argues, has marched toward intolerance. He sees an addiction to extremism on both sides of the aisle, which fosters the belief that anyone who disagrees with you must be an enemy to be destroyed. However, Maher has always displayed his own streaks of extremism, and his scorched-earth takedowns eventually become problematic. The author has something nasty to say about everyone, it seems, and the sarcastic tone starts after more than 300 pages. As has been the case throughout his career, Maher is best taken in small doses. The book is worth reading for the author’s often spot-on skewering of inept politicians and celebrities, but it might be advisable to occasionally dip into it rather than read the whole thing in one sitting. Some parts of the text are hilarious, but others are merely insulting. Maher is undeniably talented, but some restraint would have produced a better book.

Maher calls out idiocy wherever he sees it, with a comedic delivery that veers between a stiletto and a sledgehammer.

Pub Date: May 21, 2024

ISBN: 9781668051351

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

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The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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