YOU CAN'T BE SERIOUS: Writing and Living American Humor by Ralph Schoenstein

YOU CAN'T BE SERIOUS: Writing and Living American Humor

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KIRKUS REVIEW

As it must to all funny men, autobiography has come to Schoenstein. Credited with more comical books than you have fingers, and coauthor of Bill Cosby's Fatherhood, he now reviews his career as a practicing humorist and finds it pretty good. Schoenstein's credentials as a pro are impeccable, starting with his clear reverence for E.B. White, R. Benchley, and J. Thurber. As a youth, he did a regular column for the old New York Journal American, against the wishes of his father, who happened to be that paper's managing editor. He ghosted for H. Allen Smith and the even funnier Walter Winchell, who, reading Schoenstein's piece, pronounced, ""Kid, you tell 'em Winchell can still write."" Throughout, the sometimes feckless, always dogged writer suffered the slings, arrows, lunatic book tours, and bad reviews that are provided by a literary life. Especially galling: a paucity of best-sellers. Here, the writing is deftly natural, though, oddly, in the midst of the text the word ""ENTRE' ACTE"" is liable to appear without discernible reason; it might as well have been ""HORS D'OEUVRE."" Occasionally, the author provides some neat examples of how not to write funny as well as some favorite passages from his own works. The tone is light enough, though a tad self-congratulatory. That the world is crazy and filled with ""truly annoying flux"" is his message, but maybe you wouldn't know it unless he tells you. The resumÉ of a journeyman humorist--it joins one writer's rising gorge with a bit of affectionate and entertaining retrospection.

Pub Date: Dec. 17th, 1990
Publisher: St. Martin's