Sarah Silverman has found herself in some fairly high-profile tussles over the years regarding ironic portrayals of discriminatory language in a comedic setting. Instead of more of the same, Silverman’s first book recounts these public drubbings over taboo subjects, as well as showing some of her more vulnerable and hurtful formative experiences. It is refreshing to see what shaped the comedienne so often portrayed as the cruel bully. But, fans of her show might find the ribaldry stops with the book’s off-color title.
This sequel to Adriana Trigiani’s Very Valentine continues to follow custom shoemaker Valentine Roncalli and her vibrant Italian family. Brava, Valentine opens with the romantic wedding of her 80-year-old grandmother in Tuscany, then segues back to their shop in Greenwich Village where Valentine must learn how to deal with her brother as a freshly-ordained business partner.
The most interesting scenes, however, take place in Buenos Aires, where Valentine discovers a long lost cousin who coincidentally operates a similar business. At first cousin Roberta appears reticent and a bit defensive, actions which appear reasonable once the full, scandalous story is told. Plus, Buenos Aires is where she passionately reunites with sexy Italian tanner, Gianluca. True to Trigiani’s usual form, this new novel is both heartwarming and humorous.
The author, earlier known for her Big Stone Gap series, has also written an entertaining cookbook, Cooking with My Sisters, which includes many memorable anecdotes and photos of her colorful family.
The Bad Book Affair by Ian Sansom is a light, easy-read mystery is a novel choice for National Library Week. There’s a lot of dialog (maybe too much at times) but since it takes place in Northern Ireland, I guess it’s reasonable to espect a bit of blarney or wit-repartee. Enter Israel Armstrong, the primary character, now living in a converted chicken coop, and according to the first sentence is” possibly Ireland’s only English Jewish vegetarian mobile librarian.”
Israel is depressed; his girlfriend Gloria has just broken up with him, he’s about to turn 30, and he’s under suspicion in the disappearance of a local teenager. Some consider him responsible because (horror of horrors) he lent the girl a book from the library’s special “Unshelved” collection. Rather than be run out of town, he hops in the library van and does his own research, of sorts. Israel, in his frumpy cords and rather slovenly ways, is a very unlikely detective, but much of the humor comes from this self-effacing characterization. This is not classic literature, but book-lovers, especially, will find some good laughs.
If you’ve never read anything by Garrison Keillor before, you’re missing out. This humorist not only has his own National Public Radio show, A Prairie Home Companion, but has written many magazine articles and more than a dozen books, including Lake Wobegon Days.
Life Among the Lutherans also takes place in fictional Lake Wobegon, Minnesota, and has that familiar style,with more than half of the chapters beginning with that signature line, ”It has been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon.” The chapters are short (3-5 pages) so it makes for an easy and fast read. Typical of Keillor, there are also a few poems thrown into the mix.
Each chapter is also introduced with an appropriate quote. This was my favorite: “I don’t like to generalize about Lutherans, but one thing that’s true of every single last one of them without a single exception is that the low point of their year is their summer vacation.”
I was beginning to wonder why there had been no mention of lutefisk. But then, there it was, listed as Number 2 in the Ninety-Five Theses. No account of Scandanavian Lutherans would have been complete without some mention of lutefisk!
What happens when one unstoppable force meets an immovable object? That’s the subtext of this coffee-table style kitsch book, Chuck Norris Vs. Mr. T: 400 Facts About the Baddest Dudes in the History of Ever. This 176 pages lets the reader ponder brief sarcastic koans about the strength, potency, and astrophysics-bending possibilities of these two demigods in a spin on the American tall tale.
I know Chuck Norris jokes are kind of 2005, but Mr. T is in this as well, and they’re pretty dang funny.
“Chuck Norris can beat a brick wall in tennis.”
“Mr. T sleeps with a pillow under his gun.”
‘The McRib sandwich only comes back when Chuck Norris is in the mood for one.”
“Mr. T doesn’t breathe. He holds air hostage.”
For fans of Walker: Texas Ranger and A-Team alike.
Travel writers range from morose (Paul Theroux) to the absurdist. Summer seems more appropriate for the latter, so for the unfortunate few out there who haven’t experienced a Bill Bryson book, please do so now.
There’s absolutely no excuse for those of us who live in Iowa, as Bryson is one of our own. He grew up in Des Moines, traveled in Europe in the ’70′s as a young man, and has alternated living in England and the U.S. ever since.
My all time favorite is Notes from a Small Island, in which Bryson affectionately pokes fun at the English in all their eccentricity. He clearly admires the British character – their humility and forbearance, but can endlessly mock their customs and language (place names such as Farleigh Wallop and Shellow Bowells and incomprehensible Scots accents). Those of us who’ve never quite grown up find this hilarious.
The blurb on the British version warns, “Not a book that should be read in public, for fear of emitting loud snorts.”
It’s a comfort to read about the daily struggles of your counterpart in another setting. For some, this can serve as occupational therapy. For others, just the pleasure in knowing some scenarios are identical no matter where you go. The social mores of your fellow working-class schlub can lead to a-ha moments of “I know that guy, save for a different name, age, and shirt.” This is the case with mandatory viewing like NBC’s the Office television program, or 1999 cult film Office Space.
That was my impression of Free for All: Oddballs, Geeks, and Gangstas in the Public Library by Don Borchert. Some of the shocking tales of this Los Angeles Public Library clerk, you’ll be surprised to know, might trump even the mighty DPL’s offerings.
Are there any tales or films about the everyman that resonate with you?
Have you ever been in the car and bored by what’s currently on the radio? Pop in one of these best-of-the-best NPR audiobooks and transport yourself to a laugh-out-loud Scott Simon interview with Dame Edna to a story about misunderstood song lyrics.
If you like Baxter Black, Rob Gifford, Bill Harley or Susan Stamberg, you’ll be glad to have them handy on a long trip or if you’re stuck on one of the bridges for hours on end. (David Sedaris got his start at NPR and is in a class by himself).
The library’s mission – you will never be bored again.
As a follow up to His #4 New York Times Bestseller Happy Endings, Jim Norton’s latest, I Hate Your Guts, takes the caustic comedian/radio host’s comedy to a simpler and deadly accurate level. Norton levels the barrels at various public figures with the kind of invective that would make most people blush. Look out Hillary Clinton, Keith Olbermann, Jesse Jackson and Derek Jeter!
If this were a film it would be about two off-ramps past rated R. Each victim gets rended limb from limb with a several-page salvo of crushing analysis/insults. Part of you feels badly for them, but when he’s done, you’re pretty sure they must deserve it.
Roses are Red, Violets are Blue
April is National Poetry Month too!
Okay, okay — this little rhyme won’t win a Pulitzer prize. But maybe, just maybe, it’ll get you to come into the library and check out a book of poetry; you might just find some old favorites you’ve forgotten and discover some new ones along the way.
The children’s collection has some beautiful books — often illustrating just one poem, so they’re very appealling to both young and old alike. Try Shel Silverstein’s classic A Light in the Attic, filled with whimsical, playful, clever (and very funny) word play, or Paul Janecsko’s A Kick in the Head, a delightful, laugh-out-loud introduction to poetry forms. Both will have you bouncin’ to the beat!
And, if you’ve never read Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters, what better time than now? Set in a fictional Midwestern village in central Illinois along the Spoon River (which isn’t all that far from here), it tells the stories of “the dead sleeping on the hill” who awaken and tell the truth about their lives. Although written in 1915, the themes are universal and heartfelt.
If you don’t find something on the display shelf, just check out the 811′s for a treasure chest of American poetry.