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Pure Drivel
author: Steve Martin

by David
Spring, 1999


I've always been a Steve Martin fan. I feel that he's not only a damn funny man, but a fine actor in general (if you want to see him play a huge asshole, check out Pennies from Heaven). In addition, I find his plays (yes, he is a playwright, too) very good, and his screenplays are phenomenal. So, when a friend handed me a copy of his latest book, Pure Drivel, I figured I'd read it.

The book is a light volume of humorous stories and essays. That is a good thing I had worried that it would be a book of comic quips a la Seinfeld (a comedian I love, but whose book was horrendous) and every other stand-up comic on earth. I was glad to find none of that instead the book was slightly more akin to early Woody Allen collections, which I find terribly funny. Unfortunately, what I found here often was not very funny at all.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed reading the book. As I said in the beginning it is very light and, since none of the stories are more than 3 or 4 pages long, it is a perfect "bathroom book." But there is just not much here that is very memorable. Stories like Mars Probe Finds Kittens and The Sledgehammer: How it Works are forgotten moments after they are read (I had to open the table of contents just to find the names). The Paparazzi of Plato is memorable only because it is very derivative (in idea, at least) of a Woody Allen story about Socrates' last day.

I did thoroughly enjoy a couple of the stories. The first two stories, A Public Apology and Writing is Easy are pretty funny, and Schrodinger's Cat (a story about movie stars' competition for a Nobel prize in science) is downright hilarious. But apart from those moments, I really saw very little of the laugh-out-loud humor I expect from Steve Martin. The book is chock-full of the kind of light wit you expect to find at afternoon tea parties with people you barely know, but I just wanted more. I wanted the Jerk, not Father of the Bride II.

In the end, if you want a simple little book that you can read in small chunks while you bathe or do your dirty bathroom business, I'd suggest Pure Drivel. Otherwise, I'd suggest you rent the Jerk or LA Story instead and see Steve Martin at his best.


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