Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

The Book of Extremely Common Prayer

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

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

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

Categories:

NUTCRACKER

This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

Categories:

TO THE ONE I LOVE THE BEST

EPISODES FROM THE LIFE OF LADY MENDL (ELSIE DE WOLFE)

An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

Categories:
Close Quickview