24 January 2011

Book 5 of 2011

I finished this at the gym while lamenting that I was riding the stationary bike instead of running.

Zombie Spaceship Wasteland: A Book by Patton Oswalt

5) Zombie Spaceship Wasteland: A Book by Patton Oswalt
Patton Oswalt's first book differs from most comedian books. For the most part, I've stopped buying comedian books because they are inevitably disappointing. If I like a comedian enough to follow their work to the point that I want to purchase their book, I am usually pretty familiar with their material. Unfortunately, my experience has shown that comedian books, especially initial comedian books, consist entirely of their stand-up material written down along with some book exclusive funny lists. But Oswalt is clearly a writer first and comedian second, and that makes all the difference. 
While Oswalt does employ a few of the standard funny lists, the rest of the book combines autobiographical stories of his early life along with pop culture essays similar in vein to his recent Wired article that stirred up some controversy. Each of the individual parts -- the autobiographical sections, road stories, and the essays -- are strong enough that they would make great books on their own. His sole road story, covering a week-long stint in a Vancouver suburb, seems to only scratch the surface of what Oswalt has to offer.

The strongest parts are the pop culture critiques. As someone who has become less and less enamored with Chuck Klosterman the more I hear him speak on Bill Simmons' podcasts, Oswalt effortlessly accomplishes what Klosterman sometimes struggles to do: view pop culture from a knowledgeable and original point of view. Oswalt's look at the change in culture and his odd place in it as part of the generation that grew up as MTV came to life and then experienced a completely different sea change in the birth of the Internet is a succinct and cogent look at a group of people who will hold a unique sense of gravitas over future generations; surprisingly, he does so without the "get off my lawn" attitude that sometimes permeates essays on generational shifts.

My one complaint is how short the whole thing turned out to be. Sometimes that's a reason for giving something a full five-star monty, but here it's more of a drawback. I hope beyond words that the book is successful enough that Oswalt writes a sequel in a reasonable amount of time because he's barely seemed to scratch the surface with this one

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