Frazier's deadpan comic voice was once a staple for New Yorker readers. Two previous book collections resulted: Dating Your Mom (1986), an assembly of very short pieces, and Nobody Better, Better Than Nobody (1987), featuring longer essays and profiles of odd denizens of American culture, a much superior showcase for the author's prodigious narrative and journalistic skills. These later came into full flower in his acclaimed travel volume, Great Plains (1989), and in last year's moving Frazier genealogy, Family. This latest collection, much of it also from the New Yorker, harks back to Mom--short, arch, cynical takes on some of the idiocies of American life: letters from banks crowing about their human services; the habit of highbrow reviewers of insisting that impersonal entities (""Language,"" ""Dublin"") in a play or a film are in fact ""characters."" As usual, Frazier is awfully good, smart and wicked at the same time. ""Boswell's Don Johnson,"" for example, is a hilarious ditty written after the style of the famous biographer, but in this case he is engaged in hagiography of the star of Miami Vice. The title essay, with its exposition, in deadly legalese, of one Wile E. Coyote's complaints against a generic purveyor of explosive devices, shows Frazier's great comic range, however trite the subject. Although this book is not Frazier at full-bore, readers of his generation will find an occasional cultural reference long thought lost, and find themselves oddly beholden to a fellow who can resurrect Billy Joe McCallister from beneath the Tallahatchie Bridge. (June)
Reviewed on: 06/03/1996 Release date: 06/01/1996 Genre: Nonfiction
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