These jokey prayers are likely to resonate beyond the smiles they produce.

The Book of Extremely Common Prayer

A humorist with an ear for social commentary uses the language of prayer to highlight the absurdity of the modern world.

Veteran humorist and stylistic prankster Whitten (Do-It-Yourself Constitutional Amendment Kit, 2008, etc.) returns with a volume that is as much an experiment in style as a play for laughs. Having already set his sights on self-help culture and modern American politics, Whitten turns his perceptive eye to religion, particularly evangelism. Each page offers a humorous observation framed in the style and language of prayer. While not openly mocking, the book is far from reverent. Whitten’s stylistic choices are more for comic effect than commentary, but his subjects aren’t far from those of actual prayers—prayers of thanks, confusion, repentance and mourning, among others, all done up in his own comic language. Rather than getting the language of the devout, readers get a “Prayer for Paul McCartney to Retire Already” or, in one of the book’s funnier examples, a mealtime prayer that expresses thanks for the food while asking for protection from the growth hormones, pesticides and preservatives that were used to help create it. At their best, these jokey conversations with God are laugh-out-loud funny; at their worst, they approach the level of an awkward stand-up routine. What lingers about the book, however, isn’t the comedy. Through the course of the prayers, a character begins to develop that turns out to be much more than just witty. Despite the lighthearted tone he takes, readers can see in this supplicant a man who is baffled by his surroundings and trying quite desperately to find answers to life’s big questions. As they try to make sense of a senseless world, these mock prayers often don’t differ much from the genuine thing, which elevates Whitten’s latest entry above being simply a joke book. By smashing together the language of prayer and observational humor, Whitten is able to reveal the cracks and contradictions in modern life that tickle us as much as they trouble us. To his credit, the book spends as much time scanning the zeitgeist as delivering punch lines.

These jokey prayers are likely to resonate beyond the smiles they produce.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-9774807-5-3

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Vitally Important

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2014

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

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").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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