Sunday, April 10, 2005

Books: Nothing's Sacred

A few weeks ago at work, I wandered over to the Humour section to tidy up the books that were strewn about, and I found the book Nothing's Sacred by one of my favourite comedians, Lewis Black. I was intrigued, but also nervous. It has been my experience that, when stand-up comedians publish a book, it reads as though they listened to a bunch of their archived recordings, transcribed their funniest bits, hurriedly organized them, and rushed it to the press. I'm not knocking the guys, because they've written a book and I haven't, but still: if I want to laugh at George Carlin's "Baseball vs. Football," I'd much rather listen to him say it than read about it in one of his books.

Black's book, though, is different. Sure, there's a sampling of some of his bits (including The End Of The Universe, which I can recite with little to no prompting), but it's also part memoir, as he also writes about the events in his life that shaped his worldview.

His writing voice is similar to his ranting voice, but it's not just dictation. I think writing takes a little more skill and effort than speaking - boy, I'm just leaving myself wide open here, aren't I - and the man has a Master's degree in playwrighting from Yale. He's got the skill, and he puts it to good use. The stories are entertaining, sometimes hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking; they're honest and personal, and he tells them as truthfully as he can. I can only hope that my memories of my past will be as vibrant as his.

If I had one criticism of the book, it would be that the rants and the autobiographical sections sometimes don't mesh well into a whole, as some of the bits stand out from the rest of the book. It's also a rather short read, which could have been a bad thing, but the book's not lacking for material: it feels as long as it naturally should be. I recommend this book for anti-authoritarians, fans of stand-up comedy, biography lovers, and people who like to yell.

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