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When The Atlantic Monthly celebrated its 150th anniversary by publishing excerpts from the best writing ever to appear in the magazine, in the category of the humorous essay it chose only four pieces—one by Mark Twain, one by James Thurber, one by Kurt Vonnegut, and Ian Frazier's 1997 essay "Lamentations of the Father." The title piece of this new collection has had an ongoing life in anthologies, in radio performances, in audio recordings, on the Internet, and in photocopies held by hamburger magnets on the doors of people's refrigerators. The august company in which The Atlantic put Frazier gives an idea of where on the literary spectrum his humorous pieces lie. Frazier's work is funny and elegant and poetic and of the highest literary aspiration, all at the same time. More serious than a "gag" writer, funnier than most essayists of equal accomplishment, Frazier is of a classical originality. This collection, a companion to his previous humor collections Dating Your Mom (1985) and Coyote v. Acme (1996), contains thirty-three pieces gathered from the last thirteen years.
Past winner of the Thurber Prize for American Humor; author of the nonfiction bestsellers Great Plains, Family, and On the Rez; contributor to The New Yorker, Outside, and other magazines, Frazier is the greatest writer of our (or indeed of any) age.
Accomplished social satirist Frazier's latest collection reminds us why the novelist and essayist is one of America's funniest living writers. The much-quoted title piece, originally published in the Atlantic Monthly, gives voice to every parent's battle with table manners, bath time and various "laws, statutes and ordinances" concerning biting (don't), sand (not edible) and pets (not to be taped). Equally entertaining are Frazier's self-declared role as spokesman for crows, complete with slogan ("Crows: We Want to Be Your Only Bird ") and his mock expos on the truth behind history's most famous phrases. Caesar's "I came, I saw, I conquered" is, according to Frazier, simply an early example of mankind's obsession with the sound bite, a snappier version of: "I came, I saw, I conquered, I had a snack, I took a bath, and I went to bed, because I was exhausted." A treat for Frazier fanatics and new readers alike, this compilation from the past 13 years has nary a misstep and begs to be read in one sitting. Researchers, Frazier says, have determined that life is too hard. But it's easier with Frazier at the helm.