Failure Is an Option: An Attempted Memoir

H. Jon Benjamin. Dutton, $26 (256p) ISBN 978-1-5247-4216-4
In this rambling collection of random anecdotes, comedian Benjamin (the voice of characters in the Archer and Bob’s Burgers TV series) tells of his life failures. Stringing together short chapters better suited for standup routines, Benjamin provides fodder for the cliché that learning from failure provides a way forward in life. He can be a hilarious storyteller who fires off witty one-liners (looking back on playing catch with his neighbors, he concludes that “the curveball is the oral sex of baseball. It’s delicate and precarious”), but even those grow tiresome after a while. In a chapter titled “The Early Failure Years,” he attributes his occasional dizziness and his incredible laziness to his mother’s being given nitrous oxide during his birth; later, he lists his various business failures, including an idea for a restaurant called “Leftovers,”which would cut down on food waste and provide cheap meals by serving leftovers. In one of his funnier observations (from a chapter subtitled “How I Failed Hosting a Bar Mitzvah”), Benjamin points to the adolescent character of the present U.S. president: “Teens are a grisly combination of suppressed rage, sexual confusion, vanity, and unrelenting incompetence... just imagine Donald Trump but more agile.” On stage, these anecdotes might work well, but on the page they are cloying and tedious. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/26/2018
Release date: 05/01/2018
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-1-5247-4218-8
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio

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