Uneven, but more hits than misses.

MY CUSTOM VAN

AND 50 OTHER MIND-BLOWING ESSAYS THAT WILL BLOW YOUR MIND ALL OVER YOUR FACE

Stand-up comedian and character actor Black debuts with an amusing collection of essays.

For years the author has augmented his stand-up career with a variety of roles in film (most notably in Wet Hot American Summer) and television, including great work on the criminally short-lived MTV sketch show, The State. Many of these roles have honed his unique ability to deliver dry, often hyperbolic jabs at, well, seemingly anything that pops into his head. In his first book, those topics include David Sedaris (“It’s important to understand that when you read the words ‘David Sedaris’ and ‘suck it,’ they are not actually directed at David Sedaris the person, but more at the idea of David Sedaris”; shopkeeping (“A shoppe is a place where business is conducted, yes, but it’s also a place where friendships are formed, trust earned, scented candles smelled”); Socratic reasoning (the hilarious “Using the Socratic Method to Determine What It Would Take for Me to Voluntarily Eat Dog Shit for the Rest of My Life”); and his own writing talent (“Acceptance Speech I Plan to Give Upon Receiving Some Kind of Important Literary Prize for Writing this Book”). Black also includes plenty of adolescent humor of the sexual and scatological nature, including “This Is How I Party” (“to win…means showing up alone, but going home with the HOTTEST girl who is the LEAST conscious”), “How to Approach the Sensitive Question: Anal?” and “Why I Used a Day-Glo Marker to Color My Dick Yellow.” As can be expected in a collection of 50 short essays, there are some misfires, including a couple lame stabs at offbeat erotic fiction and a few half-formed pieces like “Now We Will Join Forces, You and I” and “Stan the Oracle.” But the best entries, like his take on the “Infinite Monkey Probability Theorem,” are mini comic gems: “Upon closer examination, however, I realized that what I was reading was not Hamlet, but the second act of Your Five Gallants, by the lesser Elizabethan playwright Thomas Middleton. So frustrating!!!”

Uneven, but more hits than misses.

Pub Date: July 15, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-4169-6405-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2008

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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