My Goodness: A Cynic's Short-Lived Search for Sainthood

Joe Queenan, Author Hyperion Books $21.95 (208p) ISBN 978-0-7868-6553-6
Everyone loves a funny misanthrope: Voltaire, Mark Twain, Roseanne Barr. And combative movie critic Queenan (Red Lobster, White Trash and the Blue Lagoon) can be funny. In this memoir of attempted self-salvation, Queenan charts his attempts to drop his disputatious demeanor and become a nicer, if not better, person. As he admits, it's a hard journey, since his ""financially remunerative niche as one of the handful of hired guns"" who can ""turn out a fast, efficient hatchet job"" ostensibly hangs in the balance. He's at his best when contemplating how bad he has actually been, and when he measures the ""obviously satanic people I have made fun of"" against ""unlikely people I have defended."" His ""Short History of Goodness from Jesus Christ to Sting"" crackles with the gleefully barbed and insouciant tone that has made him famous as an insult-meister. But even when Queenan takes seriously his project of living more ethically, he continues to score easy points, such as making fun of the Body Shop's overly pious self-promotion. His self-mocking tone keeps the book focused on the larger subject of grappling with moral issues in a less-than-perfect world. But too often the balance is off-kilter between his riffs on the absurd commodification of self-help and liberal causes (i.e., ""Practice Random Acts of Kindness"" bumper stickers) and his more serious philosophical offerings. In the end, Queenan's journey doesn't quite satisfy, not because he goes back to being a slightly kinder ""son of a bitch,"" but because those more serious aspirations get lost in all the easy humor. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 01/31/2000
Release date: 02/01/2000
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