Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Mixed Nuts: America's Love Affair with Comedy Teams from Burns and Allen to Belushi and Aykroyd by Lawrence J. Epstein

Having really enjoyed The Haunted Smile, Epstein’s book on Jewish comedy in America, this was a natural next read. More for the comedy enthusiast than the casual reader, the book is still very engaging and informative as it traces the evolution of team comedy. Epstein begins with Burns and Allen in vaudeville and posits that they were really the first successful comedy team of the modern era. From there he profiles the likely suspects—Laurel & Hardy, Abbott & Costello, Martin & Lewis, Hope & Crosby—as well as a few lesser-known but influential teams like Nichols & May and Stiller & Meara. He also talks at length about how teams differed and changed according to the moods of the times and their audiences. He wraps up with the demise of team comedy and examines how that influence can still be seen today.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Grayson by Lynne Cox

Lynne Cox is a world-renowned channel swimmer who has swum the English Channel and Antarctica among other amazing natatorial feats (there’s a word I never thought I’d use). At 17, when training off California’s Seal Beach, Cox came in contact with a baby gray whale who had become separated from its mother and who proceeded to swim with her for several hours as she and others on shore tried to re-unite baby and Mom. When I first read about this book, I thought, “Now that’s a story I want to read”. After reading it, my question is “How did this get past an editor and who does she know that would allow this to get past said editor?” Such a shame.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Winkie by Clifford Chase

Kudos, Grove publicity department; the effective pre-publication marketing of the book dragged me in. Fun premise--a forgotten teddy bear comes to life and is mistaken for a Unabomber-type and taken into custody by the government. This could have, should have been the biting Bush-era political satire it aspired to be (one that seems strangely absent from the bookstores). Until you actually read it. Then you find it such a sprawling mess, filled with such nonsense and loose ends, it's amazing it got published at all. I'd rather eat lint.