Lamentations of the Father

Ian Frazier has a gimlet eye and a brain pickled in the juices of S. J. Perelman, Robert Benchley, and Art Buchwald. As one of America?s best living humorists, Frazier can effortlessly turn a newspaper clipping about the greenhouse effect into biting political satire: ?President Bush has called for a decade of additional research on global warming, but needs more time to decide which decade it will be, assistants to the president announced today. So far, 2060-2070 ?looks nice,? said one insider, though other decades have not been ruled out.? In his new collection of humorous essays, Lamentations of the Father, Frazier squints his eye at such topics as middle-age memory loss, an updated version of Laura Ingalls Wilder (?Little House off the Highway?), class notes from an alumni newsletter (?Jim Carmichael writes that he happened to see Marc Weinstein in the Salt Lake City airport not long ago and pretended not to recognize him?), and how to operate a motel room shower curtain. Lamentations of the Father is not as consistently funny as Frazier?s earlier Coyote v. Acme (despite trying to strike lightning twice with the similar ?Th-Th-That?s Not All, Folks?), and some of the essays lie on these pages like lead ingots, proving that humor is the trickiest of tightrope walks for a writer. However, when Frazier?s rapier wit is sharpest -- as in the book?s title piece and two others that summon the ghost of Erma Bombeck, ?A Cursing Mommy Christmas? and ?The Cursing Mommy Cookbook? -- there is no one who can make you laugh louder on a crowded subway than our generation?s Thurber.

July 23: Jessica Mitford died on this day in 1996.

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