How Paul Robeson Saved My Life: And Other Mostly Happy Stories

Carl Reiner, Author, Carl Reiner, Read by Audio Literature $18 (0p) ISBN 978-0-7871-2261-4

Film comedy director Reiner (The Jerk, etc.) reveals his vaudevillian side in this collection of short humor pieces. Each plays like a skit, the characters established quickly through dialogue-driven vignettes. The stories often build to punch line climaxes, or they are left fractured, standing alone as parabolic slices of life. For Reiner, the human drama is mostly played out between the sexes. Men are smitten by women and will do anything to capture them, as in the tale where a philanthropist falls for a high-priced escort girl. In another, a man brings home a Miss America candidate to meet his scrutinizing family. Characters from history are called in freely as well, Casanova, naturally enough, for one. Even God makes an appearance, as a supreme jokester, in an absurd version of the creation. Reiner, who has worked as a comic actor (on TV's The Dick Van Dyke Show and elsewhere), is a wry and evocative reader. His terse writing style adapts well to audio form, effectively drawing the listener into each story as a mini-fantasy. He is funny, but not too funny; the tape has a relaxed, unforced air. Best, Reiner seems to get a genuine kick out of his own material. Based on the 1999 Cliff Street hardcover. (Dec.)