A mixed bag of mostly common-sense advice on how to better appreciate the theater and poetry.

READ REVIEW

MINI MUSINGS

MINIATURE THOUGHTS ON THEATRE AND POETRY

A cornucopia of “miniature essays” on literary topics.

In the preface, Canadian poet and longtime freelance critic Garebian explains that he got the idea for this book from playwright Sarah Ruhl’s 100 Essays I Don’t Have Time To Write (2014). He doesn’t quite reach 100, but he follows her formula of writing a page or two, or even less, giving the slim book a cleaning-out-the-desk feeling. This often witty but uneven collection, a “breezy conversation with myself and interested readers,” speaks to some of Garebian’s “curiosities and obsessions” about the theater (acting, plays, playwrights) and poetry (on reading it, genres, theory, and practice). The author admires Canadian actor William Hutt, a “theatre giant of enormous skill and stature,” comparing him to Laurence Olivier—a master of “rhythm, pacing, and mood”—and Marlon Brando. An actor himself, Garebian champions the importance of community theater and recounts some of his own performances. He slyly notes that “great acting often demands great feet.” For the author, the often “misunderstood and misjudged” Edward Albee was one of America’s greatest playwrights. Garebian believes too many English teachers “would rather not teach” poetry at all. Their “lack of enthusiasm,” he writes, “filters down to their hapless students.” Unlike some overly academic, “deconstructive” critics of poetry, Garebian eschews “using a lot of learned lumber and a great deal of corny, contrived examples” to make his points. He introduces readers to unusual poetic forms such as found poems, collages, the cento, oulipo, and lipogram, as well as grim Japanese death poems. Garebian admires the “use of political consciousness as a volatile element of poetics” in Amiri Baraka and other militant poets. He also worries, “Can There Be Poetry After Donald Trump.” A lackluster piece excoriating poetry readings is just plain curmudgeonly.

A mixed bag of mostly common-sense advice on how to better appreciate the theater and poetry.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77183-534-3

Page Count: 110

Publisher: Guernica Editions

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Fans of Seinfeld will eat this up, and aspiring comics will want to study how he shapes his seemingly effortless humor.

IS THIS ANYTHING?

“All comedians are slightly amazed when anything works.” So writes Seinfeld in this pleasing collection of sketches from across his four-decade career.

Known for his wry, observational humor, Seinfeld has largely avoided profanity and dirty jokes and has kept politics out of the equation. Like other schooled jokesters, perhaps most famously Bob Hope, he keeps a huge library of gags stockpiled, ever fearful of that day when the jokes will run out or the emcee will call you back for another set. “For the most part, it was the people who killed themselves to keep coming up with great new material who were able to keep rising through the many levels,” he recounts of his initiation into the New York stand-up scene. Not all his early material played well. The first piece in this collection, laid out sentence by sentence as if for a teleprompter, is a bit about being left-handed, which comes with negative baggage: “Two left feet. / Left-handed compliment. / Bad ideas are always ‘out of left field.’ / What are we having for dinner? / Leftovers.” He gets better, and quickly, as when he muses on the tininess of airplane bathrooms: “And a little slot for used razor blades. Who is shaving on the plane? And shaving so much, they’re using up razor blades. Is the Wolfman flying in there?” For the most part, the author’s style is built on absurdities: “Why does water ruin leather? / Aren’t cows outside a lot of the time?” It’s also affable, with rare exceptions, as when, taking on a mob boss persona, he threatens a child with breaking the youngster’s Play-Doh creations: “Nothing wrong with sending your child a little Sicilian message once in a while.” One wishes there were more craft notes among the gags, but the ones that are there are both inspiring and gnomic: “Stand-up is about a brief, fleeting moment of human connection.”

Fans of Seinfeld will eat this up, and aspiring comics will want to study how he shapes his seemingly effortless humor.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982112-69-1

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

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. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more