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Lamentations Of The Father

by Ian Frazier
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Product Details

  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publishing date: 26/05/2009
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 9780312428358
  • ISBN: 0312428359


Ian Frazier is unquestionably one of America's greatest living humorists, a writer with a distinct, generous sensibility and a thousand different voices. His work is hilarious, elegant, and piercing, drawing on high and low cultureto expose the warped line of thought running beneath our public selves. When The Atlantic Monthly published four humorists among the best writing ever to appear in the magazine, they chose essays by Mark Twain, James Thurber, Kurt Vonnegut, and Ian Frazier's "Lamentations of the Father." This collection, gathered from the past fourteen years of his career, once again proves him worthy of that great company.

Ian Frazier is the author of seven works of nonfiction including Great Plains, Family, and On the Rez. He has also published two collections of humor writing and is a past winner of the Thurber Prize for American Humor. A frequent contributor to The New Yorker, he has also written for Outside and other magazines. He lives in Montclair, New Jersey.
Winner of the Thurber Prize for American Humor

When The Atlantic Monthly celebrated its 150th anniversary by publishing excerpts from the best writing ever to appear in the magazine, it chose only four pieces in the category of the humorous essay?one by Mark Twain, one by James Thurber, one by Kurt Vonnegut, and Ian Frazier’s 1997 essay ?Lamentations of the Father.” The title piece of this new collection has had an ongoing life in anthologies, in radio performances, in audio recordings, on the internet, and in photocopies on refrigerator doors.

The august company in which The Atlantic placed Frazier gives an idea of where his humorous pieces lie on the literary spectrum. Frazier’s work is funny and elegant and poetic and of the highest literary aspiration, all at the same time. More serious than a ?gag” writer, funnier than other essayists of equal accomplishment, Frazier is of a classical originality. This collection, a companion to his previous humor collections Dating Your Mom and Coyote v. Acme, contains thirty-three pieces gathered from the last thirteen years.
"Although our era is awash in comedy, literary humor has dwindled in recent years . . . Indeed, if there were a federal registry for endangered literary genres, humor surely would be on it, a prose equivalent of the black-footed ferret. All of this makes Ian Frazier a kind of rara avis and his new collection of essays, Lamentations of the Father, is as welcome as another sighting of the ivory-billed woodpecker. As a longtime staff writer for the New Yorker, the author has enjoyed the protection of what amounts to one of literary humor's protected habitats, and he has made the most of it. No one writing in this genre today hits the mark with anything like Frazier's frequency. The measure of his success is the number of pieces you'll want to read aloud to others?partly to share the pleasure, partly to explain why you've been making all those strangling noises. What distinguishes literary humor from other forms of contemporary comedy is that, in most instances, you can share it with those around you, even if one of the listeners can't get into a PG-13 film on his own . . . One of the many pleasures of Frazier's humorous sensibility is that it doesn't deny the distinction between high and low, but integrates the two as equally real and worthy of consideration. The title 'The New Poetry,' for example, could be ripped from the hand-cut pages of any one of several dozen magazines. In Frazier's hands, it becomes the occasion for considering a Thomas Hardy you won't quite recognize and an Ezra Pound whose pretensions you will, because he 'had a Parisian jeweler make a solid-gold laurel wreath for him, which he wore about his temples when he attended award ceremonies of the French Academy.' If the author's account of his 'new poets' and their art seems curiously like an entertainment page piece on a stable of rap musicians, well . . . there's this on the Wystan Hugh you never knew: 'In his personal life, Auden was Peck's Bad Boy, in and out of trouble with the law. His sad gentle eyes and seamed face gave no indication of the trouble in store if you messed with him. His mother, who supported him throughout his career, always said that the literary rivals Auden shot would have done the same to him if he had given them the chance. Certainly, there was some truth in that . . . When a dispute over the acceptability of an off-rhyme led to gunplay, Auden was always the one authorities came looking for.' And what, measured against literary immortality, are the commonplace vagaries of middle age? To Frazier's shrewd eye?and in his graceful hands?they're a small window in the universal condition."?Tim Rutten, Los Angeles Times
"Ian Frazier is an antidote for the blues."?The Boston Globe

"Frazier is a master of the trade and for those cursed with literacy, an absolute howl."?Jeff Simon, The Buffalo News

"A celebrated essayist for The Atlantic Monthly and The New Yorker, Ian Frazier knows funny. The only reason he's not a household name in mainstream America is that his wit is of the Dorothy Parker variety: dry, smart and satirical. Think Twain and Vonnegut if they'd changed diapers and blogged from Starbucks. When this wit taps into something universal, a Frazier essay can and has started e-mail wildfires. The title essay of his latest collection, 'Lamentations of the Father,' did just that a few years back. Written as a benediction filtered through the thoughts and world-weary mouth of a stay-at-home dad, it beseeches, curses and, well, laments about how and why children act in such a childlike manner. It's one of the most original, laugh-out-loud rants in a decade . . . 'Unbowed' is an inspired piece in which Frazier mocks the tabloid tradition of sensationalizing every utterance and move of our modern royalty: the movie star. Frazier opens with two real quotes from the daily trials and tribulations of Russell Crowe. From these he creates a ridiculous interview in which Crowe defends his respect and fear of bovines, elevating a small pastoral confrontation to the level of 9/11 and the war on terror. 'Sure, I could sit up on the porch all day, which is screened in and has a door that they don't know how to open, the bastards,' Crowe said. 'And yes, I'll admit that they got my attention with the noise they make, and the way they look at you, and all that slobbering. Most blokes would take one look and retreat to the equipment shed or climb on top of the pickup. But I couldn't live with myself if I did that.' This is vintage Frazier, and highlights one of his favorite literary devices?assuming the voice of pop culture icons, or placing himself in close proximity to them to make fun of modern society. Frazier shows just how dumb pop culture can be, especially when it takes itself seriously. In 'My Wife Liz,' Frazier, tongue firmly in cheek, claims to have been married to Elizabeth Taylor for a brief but blissful stretch of time. As with the devil, the humor of this essay is in the details. Frazier's colorful and extensive recall of their relationship sets up a militant campaign to get the world to recognize him in some official capacity as one of Taylor's numerous ex-husbands. When he's not skewering pop culture icons, Frazier gleefully denounces fads, subcultures and industries that he finds deserving of a verbal whipping. In 'Researchers Say,' Frazier needs only a few paragraphs to have his way with academic studies, the pharmaceutical industry and pervasive myths regarding stress-free, disease-free, death-free living. Clueless book editors, deadbeat dads, mothers who curse like sailors while sharing their favorite recipes?if you've ever carelessly participated in society (and who hasn't?), you're Frazier's fair game."?Joe Kurmaskie, The Oregonian (Portland)

"Being a funny guy doesn't always mesh with being a smart guy. In Frazier's case, however, the two seem one and the same."?The Christian Science Monitor

"Warning . . . reading [Frazier's essays] in the bathroom, on the subway, or in other heavy-traffic areas may force you to have to explain to others what's making you guffaw so loudly."?Entertainment Weekly

"At 57, the Thurber Prize-winning comic essayist and longtime New Yorker writer is regarded as one of America’s greatest humorists. His tenth book, Lamentations of the Father, contains 33 short essays, many of which are quintessentially New York as well as laugh-out-loud funny . . . The collection as a whole invokes laughter with wildlife anthropomorphizing in 'Tomorrow’s Bird' and traipses into satire on unhappy domesticity in 'The Cursing Mommy Cookbook' and 'The Cursing Mommy Christmas.' Frazier then veers into ribald territory with the curiously named 'Chinese Arithmetic,' an essay in the form of a medical log detailing his own embarrassing erections and ends the book with 'What I Am,' based on his dishwashing method (meaning: no method), which his wife lovingly declared 'idiocy.' Mr. Frazier disagreed, taking a jab at the politically correct rhetoric of the time, arguing he was, instead, 'a sufferer of idiocy.' During the interview, he added a postscript in his characteristic self-deprecating humor, 'As it turns out, my dishwashing method might have shown idiocy.' Though it took him 11 years to publish his first book, writing for the New Yorker played an invaluable role in shaping his comic writing. Even more than his father, 'making New Yorker readers?sophisticated folks?laugh is a tough accomplishment.' And getting that laugh from readers, said Mr. Frazier, is 'irreducible. Either you succ...

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  • Multiple, solitary laugh attacks!
    From Amazon

    Ian Frazier turns the perfectly frustrating in every day life into comic relief. Where David Sedaris makes (often successful) use of self deprecation, Ian Frazier uses pure and delicious wit. If you don't find slapstick comedy funny, this might be a book for you. Otherwise, keep on laughing about people falling down stairs and making funny faces!

  • Of Uneven Quality
    From Amazon

    I think the title essay is hilarious, and I've given several copies of the hardbound version of that individual essay as gifts. The collection under review has a few other essays ("If Memory Doesn't Serve", "Kid Court", "What I Am") of the same general nature, not quite up to the level of "Lamentations of the Father" but still quite funny and insightful. If all of the essays were like that, I would have rated this book 4 stars. Most of them, however, are different, somewhat like a lengthy elaboration on a Jack Handy quote, somewhat like an above-average example of an article from The Onion. I thought these were so-so; something about them just didn't click for me. Your mileage may vary. And then there a few (like the "Cursing Mommy" ones) that seem to be based on the premise that offensive things are intrinsically funny. Certainly, Frazier isn't the only humorist who seems to feel that way, but I don't, and there's no way I could give this book as a gift to those in the (prudish, puritanical, call them whatever you want) circles I run in.

  • Humor eastern and Unever
    From Amazon

    Have lived in east, midwest and overseas. Humor in this book easily understood in east among middle class - harder in midwest. Unnecessary frequent use of crude language. Some very funny stories - some worth skipping. Friend to whom I gave it has lived in Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Ohio and took until nearly the end to "warm to" the author.

  • Hysterical
    From Amazon

    Lamentations of the Father is a hysterical collection of humor pieces. Frazier takes common experiences and deftly turns them into laugh riots. More literary in many ways than someone like Dave Barry, Frazier applies his smarts to subjects that you wouldn't think could be turned into humor, like how to operate a shower curtain. His parody of rap verses by substituting rappers with classic poets is incredibly funny, as are virtually all the pieces. My only criticisms: one piece on cursing mommy was sufficient; the murderer piece I actually fouind a bit disturbing. Nevertheless, if you want to laugh a lot, if you are married and have children, if you want to see a clever mind at play, read this book.

  • Page for page, the funniest writer in decades
    From Amazon

    How does a man become a murderer? Not the kind of question you and I ask ourselves, but Ian Frazier has thought deeply. Done the homework. And, in "He, The Murderer", he reports back: On an aptitude test, "Murderer" was the category he scored highest in. By then, he'd already murdered a couple of guys, just fooling around. He kind of liked it. One thing led to another. It's not all roses, this business of killing people. For one thing: Now he wishes he'd murdered more people when he was younger. You reach the age of forty, forty-five, and you can't react like you used to when you were twenty. For another: Everybody's got his hand out these days, wanting a favor. "Hey, Ronnie, can you murder my nephew?" "Ronnie, my man, if you got a second, could you murder the head of the Plumbers and Contractors Union?" "Yo, Uncle Ronnie, how about doing a little murdering for us, pro bono?" Like always, friends and family take advantage. To no one's surprise, he wants better for the next generation: He is determined that his son will not have to murder people when he gets big, and will be able to make a good living simply by injuring them. And then....but you see what happens. You start reading an Ian Frazier piece, and the next thing you know you're quoting him to anyone in your zip code, and pretty soon you're reading the whole piece aloud. And this happens time after time, because on a good day there is no one better at smart-funny than Ian Frazier. "Kisses All Around", for example, is letters of premature acknowledgment. The Pope's representative thanks Martin Luther for the 95 theses: "It's on the table next to his bed, and he will certainly get to it soon." Khomeini tells Salman Rushdie how much he's looking forward to reading "The Satanic Verses" --- "Death to Bush or whoever, and kisses all around." "Laws Concerning Food and Drink; Household Principles; Lamentations of the Father" starts with important rules for the consumption of refreshment outside the kitchen. ("If you are sick, and are lying down and watching something, then may you eat in the living room.") Of course the Father moves on to complaints: "Hear me, O my children, for the bills they kill me. I pay and pay again, even to the twelfth time in a year, and yet again they mount higher than before..." "The Cursing Mommy Cookbook" is everything that went on in your head when you went to make chili and someone had used the last of the chili powder. Later, there's "A Cursing Mommy Christmas." Because, you know, it's always at her house.... "Researchers Say"parodies academic writing by exploring the emerging proof that life is too hard. Thus: "Nine out of ten of the respondents, identified by just their first initials for the purpose of the survey, stated that they would give up completely if they knew how." "Warmer, Warmer" is a meditation on George Bush's call for a decade of additional research on global warming. But which one? "'We don't want to pick just any old decade,' the source continued, perspiration beading on his forehead. 'Finding the right decade for this type of in-depth climate research might take as long as ten years.'" There are more. And they are, almost without exception, so very funny that if you have not been reading Ian Frazier for decades, you may feel a sudden hole in your life of which you were heretofore unaware. Fret not. It is easy to catch up. Start with the new book. Then work back. You're welcome.

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