George Carlin need only be heard to be appreciated. You remember him pacing and gesturing as he crouched on the stage, delivering rapid-fire, surgical observations on the follies of humankind. Maybe it's his early days in radio, but the voice is among the most expressive anywhere. He leaps from rage to rant to sotto voce, from lecturing to confiding, as he plays a whole range of the characters who populate his wildly imaginative essays. You could listen to him for hours--and you will. Along the way you'll remember that Carlin was never just a comic. He was an articulate, informed, educated, and always opinionated eyewitness to the human condition. Hilarious and off-color, of course, but he covers an awful lot of ground in this collection, and really makes you think.
The thing about a David Sedaris reading, even at Carnegie Hall, is that he stands behind a podium and reads. It's not a physical performance, per se, so listening to the recording is about as good as the experience of being there. And that is very good indeed. Sedaris delivers a largely deadpan reading of hilarious and insightful material, from true family stories to wild fantasies. Audiences are in stitches from start to finish, and you will be, too. Although it's difficult to choose, this is some of his very best work.
Presented as an introductory guide to a vanished human race for the benefit of visiting aliens, "Earth" is a perceptive, tightly written, awfully clever survey of mankind's whole history. It's especially good at leaving unsaid the best punchlines, which immediately form in the listener's mind. With help from others, it is nonetheless mostly the voice of Jon Stewart who--freed from the rather more frantic persona of his TV show--is a skilled and expressive narrator. It's a joy to hear.
Usually I can't get through a book of comical columns. This is the rare exception. Caitlin touches on EVERYTHING a woman has ever grappled with, but rarely will bring up, even to her best friend. With every topic, with relentless British humor, she brings you to a place of seeing the most common of things totally differently. From Brazilian waxes to high heels to childbirth to one of the funniest, most astute pieces on relationships I've ever read, she irreverently tears the conventional, cultural norms to shreds and offers up a lucid, common sense look at things we too often inanely follow like lemmings.
While walking along the Pacific, listening to How To Be A Woman, a friend rode up on her bike. She's the same age as me, 59, has a successful business and who ran so much, prepping for a marathon to impress her kids, that she got plantar fasciitis. That was two months ago and she can still not walk far, never mind run. She breathlessly, sweating profusely, related how she goes to spin class three times a week, swims every day she can, and bikes umpteen miles to LOSE WEIGHT. This woman was, before she stated all this marathon training, MUCH THINNER THAN ME (and I'm a person whom no one considers fat, ok, except me,) and married to a guy who adores her no matter what she weighs. Having been quite happy race walking in the sunshine by the sea, I would have instantly switched to feeling like a clumsy elephant if it weren't for this book, to which I was listening. Caitlin is my heroine. She brings the insanity women just take for granted front and center and kept making me say to myself, "Well, of course!"
This book also provoked numerous discussions with friends and family; the most amazing conversations about subjects we'd never touched before. This is such a mind opening book, so informative, while causing one to constantly laugh out loud (which is no simple feat for a book.)
The first chapter is deceptive and Caitlin, stand up comedian she is, can be a bit loud. But stick with it, please, and then laugh your head off and, if you're a woman, be prepared to feel far more secure in your own sneakers than you did at the start. If you're a man, be prepared to actually start to understand those female enigmas around you. And no matter who you are, you will, without a doubt, look at everything around you in a whole new light.