Thursday, June 21, 2012

FIVE COOL BOOKS FOUND AT MY LOCAL PUBLIC LIBRARY

[Albie's Note]-- All of these books were checked out by me from my local Public Library [Sierra Vista, AZ] and they serve to illustrate just how marvelous a resource your nearby publicly funded Book Depository can be nowadays! 

We live in interesting times, my friends...


1) THE PLOT by Will Eisner

This I found in my library's constantly expanding "graphic novels" section.  There, amid all the worthless anime and super-hero retreads, a patron can sometimes find real gold. This was a good example.

Eisner, a true golden-age comics legend and creator of The Spirit, finished THE PLOT just before his death in  2005 at the age of 87.   In it, he traces the history of the notorious anti-semitic forgery called The Protocols Of the Elders of Zion.  The author carefully gives the full history, in cartoon form, of how an obscure 19th century French satire-- which had nothing to do with Jews at all-- was transformed by some later venomous Russians into the notorious libel against worldwide Jewry that appears in English-- even today-- as The Protocols.   Frankly, it takes some stamina to even get through it all [which made me actually thankful it was written in comic book form.]   Anti-semitism-- which I truly believe is a uniquely Satanic hatred in its ultimate origin--  is perhaps a particularly strong preoccupation of mine, so I read this immediately.  It is basically a well-done, sequentially-related history that makes a dreary but important subject almost palatable.

I Praise God this one was even in my public library.  I pray it reaches many hands and that they never toss it out!


2) SERIOUSLY FUNNY: THE REBEL COMEDIANS OF 1950s AND 1960s by Gerald Nachman

This book clocks in at 659 informative pages but it reads so quickly you'd never dream it. Nachman gives surprisingly thorough profiles of 26 seminal "New Wave" stand-up comedians who essentially comprised a "revolution" in making Americans laugh.  The profiles were fascinatingly dense with information, and the stories of some of these folks were really compelling. There are plenty of entertaining backstage anecdotes (Sid Caesar throwing a lit cigar at his brilliant young writer Mel Brooks; Bill Cosby punching out self-righteous lefty Tommy Smothers) and a surprising amount of "darker side" tales... and not just the expected ones about Lenny Bruce or Ernie Kovaks, but even startlers about  seemingly "average Joe" funny men like Mort Sahl and Jonathan Winters. Some of these funny folks had heavy depression riding them like a monkey! Often, the private lives of the laugh-givers were far less amusing than their stage acts. 

[By the way... If you're interested in researching the now-legendary Bruce, the 40-plus page treatment here is, I believe, as good as it gets, and will save you the trouble I took years ago of slaving through Albert Goldman's ponderous and pretentious biographical tome.  The bare truth seems to be that Bruce, for all his brilliance, was basically a funny yet tremendously flawed and self-important whack-job, which Nachman conveys vividly... and fairly.]

My favorite profiles were the ones about Jean Shepherd, Bob and Ray, and Bob Newhart, but there really wasn't a bad chapter here.  I only wish Nachman had given some space to the great Soupy Sales, who surely earned some kind of tribute here for taking much of this same "New Wave" sensibility into the oddest place of all: children's television

Still, for anyone with interest in the mechanics of making people laugh, this book is a must.



3) THERE'S NOTHING IN THIS BOOK I MEANT TO SAY by Paula Poundstone

As the last selection may indicate, I absolutely love to laugh!  Life's troubles-- including the heartbreaks of divorce and loss of loved ones-- have only made me more manic in my constant search of things to amuse and tickle me.  Because of this ongoing quest I am always picking up books by stand-up comics with high hopes.  Usually, for some reason, these books are way less funny than you would expect.  Search me as to why it's so, but it is. 

This book was the glorious exception.  I have always liked Poundstone to begin with, so I dove into this strange memoir with cautious but high hopes.  I was NOT disappointed. 

Did I say strange? Paula decides, for no apparent reason, to relate her own rather-less-than-inspiring life story with  inter-woven true facts from the lives of world-renowned historical figures like Joan Of Arc, Abe Lincoln, and Ludwig Van Beethoven.  It makes no sense at all, but i am glad she used this approach, because it is absolutely hilarious!  In fact, I think this may be the single best "laugh out loud" comedy book I have found.   Someone has said-- and rightly I reckon-- that the very best humor is always self-deprecating, and believe you me,  Poundstone has taken self-deprecation further than any humorist I have ever encountered!  Possibly this was the only approach she could think of after her highly publicized arrest for driving kids around drunk, but the result is a real treasure.  I could offer all kinds of examples of her wry self-abuse here, but take this favorite comment from early in the book as a classic sample: "The judge said I was the best probationer he ever had. Talk about proud."

Thanks, Paula. I needed this book.


4) PEANUT BUTTER AND JEREMY'S BEST BOOK EVER by James Kochalka

OK, more silly comic book stuff... but bear with me.  My daughter Haddie found this one at the library and said to me: "Dad, I really think you'll like this.  It's your kind of humor."  This turned out to be true, and according to some reviewers online that fact makes me a real idiot.   Of course, I am OK with that... after all, Momma said it takes all kinds of people to make a world. :)

I think the big objection of some people is that this comes off like a kids' book but it is full of anti-social behaviour, mainly from a gun-packing crow named Jeremy.  One reviewer says its great, but not for kids.  I, on the other hand, have read it aloud to my kids several times.  OOPS!

It's hard to explain it, but basically it details the adventures of sweet but delusional cat [Peanut Butter] who is befriended [well, maybe that's the wrong word] by Jeremy, the selfish crow who hangs out outside her window.    To tell you more would just confuse you and possibly spoil it as well.  You just kinda have to read it.


5) BRANDED FOR CHRIST by Eschol Cosby

Well... if you know me, you probably knew I'd have a Western, or a Christian Life Story, or some kinda book about Arizona somewhere on this  list.  

This little [110 brief pages] memoir from Cochise County cowboy preacher Eschol Cosby [who went to Heaven in 2008 at the ripe old age of 97] manages to cover all 3 categories!

I wish it was longer and more detailed, but at the same time I am thankful he managed to write this at all.  As a boy, I actually saw Eschol and his "family band" a couple times performing at my tiny home church in Sonoita AZ back in the 1970s, so this book had much more than just a passing interest for me.  Eschol tells some great stories, from his conversion as a child at a Texas camp meeting to his World War 2 experiences and finally his planting of a long-renowned Baptist Church in Pearce Az, which he would pastor for over 40 years. Eschol relates his life story like some old cowboy talking to the reader over tin cans of coffee by a campfire. 

Definitely time well spent.

Thank God for Libraries!

PEACE.

6 comments:

Oscar said...

Sounds like you hit a jackpot. Lots of good info.

Albie The Good said...

OSCAR: My maternal Granddad [whom I never met] used to tell his sons-- my uncle-- "Get the library habit instead of the saloon habit." I think that's great advice, don't you?

PEACE

Bob Cosby said...

Thank you for the kind words concerning my father and his book. We pushed Dad for years to write that and when he finally did it was a real blessing. It is just like he would tell the stories.

I remember being in Sonoita "back in the day." I was probably around 10 when we were there. Ken Evins was the pastor as I recall. He recently passed away but we are still in contact with Jean and the kids.

If you would like a copy of my Dad's book I would be happy to send you one if you will send your snail mail address.

Yours for Strays

Robert Eschol Cosby Jr. (Bob)

Anonymous said...

Dad's book of memoir's does reflect who he was: a man who knew why he was here and was not too concerned with others opinion of his purpose. A day does not pass that I do not miss him and think about him. When Bob phoned me about this blog I was misty-eyed already over some precious memories of him. His book wBas not polished because he was not. How I'd love to hear his voice with some of those stories.

Becky Cosby Miller, Payson

Albie The Good said...

BOB: Wow, that was a great comment I never expected!

I liked your Dad a lot, brother... not only in person but on the Wilcox AM radio on Sunday mornings... he was a great man of God I do truly reckon.

You guys made cool music too!

Thanks so much for commenting ! :)

Albie The Good said...

Becky: It's a great heritage you got there... Thanks for commenting, sister :)

ALBIE