cover image Pure Drivel Display

Pure Drivel Display

Steve Martin. Hyperion Books, $19.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-7868-7915-1

These short humor pieces, many of which first appeared in the New Yorker, represent a mixed bag. While actor/ comedian/writer Martin consistently comes up with clever lines, his conceits soar only about as often as they peter out. His opening offer, ""A Public Apology,"" takes the politician's mea culpa to deadpan, ridiculous heights: ""I had sex with a hundred-and-two-year old male turtle. It would be hard to argue that it was consensual."" But the next piece, ""Writing is Easy!"" contains such clunkers as ""Naked Belligerent Panties"" as a recommended topic for up-and-coming writers. Martin's zones of inquiry include science, language, show biz and, of course, mating. Among the stand-outs: ""Dear Amanda"" recounts the belles lettres of mannerly stalker; ""Taping My Friends"" trips into a paranoid universe; ""I Love Loosely"" brings Lucy & Ricky to the ""oral sex isn't sex debate;"" and ""Artist Lost to Zoloft"" laments how pharmaceuticals affect the avant-garde. But the title piece (okay, it's just called ""Drivel""), which concerns a duo linked by hyper-conscious irony, shows Martin straining for laughs. (Sept.)