A collection of stories, essays, and sketches from the senior writer of Funny or Die.
For a sampling of sketches from this debut collection, see “If I Have to Shit During the 5K Charity Run, I’m Just Going to Do It,” “I’m Not an Asshole, I’m Just an Introvert,” “How Many Farts Measure a Life?” or “Only Six of My Seven Kids Have Whooping Cough, So I’m Staying Anti-Vax.” The author, who, before Funny or Die, was the artistic director of the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, stuffs his first book with absurdities and silliness, almost like an anthology of lower-brow “Shouts & Murmurs” segments from the New Yorker. Some of the sketches—e.g., “I Like All Types of Music and My Sense of Humor Is So Random” or “As the Toothbrush You Just Threw Away, I Have Some Questions about the Seven 12-Ounce Mountain Dews in Your Trash”—are genuinely funny. Others are less so, creating an unevenness that is common in such collections. Sometimes the joke is in the title, and the rest of the piece feels like padding. However, the author also includes a scattering of personal essays throughout the book, and for many readers, these will be the most engaging. In “Predator Prey,” Dern describes the “joy in being the willing dupe,” as when he visited Tunisia after college and was manipulated by a young local man. Unfortunately, Dern doesn’t go as deeply into the subject as readers may hope, and that’s the overall problem with this collection: he tends to skate along on the surface without digging for more. In the first piece, “Which One Are You?” the author describes his appearance on the reality show Beauty and the Geek and his lifelong quest for attention: “I like attention. I like it too much, so I do dumb things to get it.”
In his first book, Dern shoots for the easy laughs, some of which he hits; however, he falls short of creating the lasting ones.
Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)
Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.
Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").