I SHUDDER by Paul Rudnick


and Other Reactions to Life, Death, and New Jersey
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Scenarist Rudnick (I’ll Take It, 1989, etc.) presents 15 humorous pieces.

The author, a celebrated screenwriter, playwright and columnist, delivers a collection of autobiographical essays sure to please fans of David Sedaris and Jonathan Ames, though his work is not as convulsively funny as the former or scandalously titillating as the latter. Rudnick is a master of the breezy quip and projects a refreshingly modest restraint, avoiding the sometimes cloying navel-gazing common to the genre; the author’s role in his stories is more of a spectator than a central character. Rudnick writes about his family and career, dishing behind-the scenes dirt (albeit pretty mild dirt) from productions of films including Sister Act (1992), The First Wives Club (1996) and In & Out (1997). There is no mention of the disastrous remake of The Stepford Wives (2004), which is understandable but disappointing. The author’s profiles of outsize showbiz types like producer Allan Carr and mercurial British actor Nicol Williamson are vivid and droll. The concluding piece, a remembrance of his friends at the infamous Chelsea Hotel at the height of its squalid glamour, is a sweetly affecting portrait of a vanished bohemian New York City. A look back at the early days of the AIDS crisis is similarly moving. The funniest essays are excerpts from the fictional diary of one Elyot Vionnet, a fussy older gentleman whose horror over the insipidness and vulgarities of modern life repeatedly leads to comically satisfying bloodshed and chaos. Rudnick’s gift for the skewed first-person narrative will be familiar to fans of his “Libby Gelman-Waxner” columns from Premiere magazine. Vionnet is an equally rich and amusing character, and a book-length volume of his memoirs would be a treat.

A witty, satisfying collection of American humor.

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-06-178018-9
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2009


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