Thursday, September 17, 2009

Zing! Rudnick's First Book in Who Knows How Long can be Very, Very Funny

It's called I Shudder, and it's a collection of personal essays mixed with the fictional narrative of Elyot Vionnet. Elyot's spent much of his career as a substitute teacher in the New York school system. He has a wonderful studio on an upper floor and always wears the finest fabrics. These pieces are hit or miss with me, though I did particularly enjoy his teaching session.

It's the essays that I liked the most, profiles of Scott Rudin, Alan Carr, his ill-fated attempt to write Sister Act (the storyline was his idea). But the cream of the crop is "The Sisters", the adventures of his mom (Selma) and his two older aunts, Lil the authoritarian and Hilda the wisecrackers (mom was the Bohemian).

"Look who's here!" said Lil, adding, "So there's no elevator?"

"Of course not," explained my mother. "That's why he lives up here--so we won't come and visit him."

"Well, I guess we showed him," Hilda chortled.

"I'm not kidding, there's no elevator?" asked LIl.

"There is," I replied, but it's restricted. This is a nice building."

Hey, these are the gals from his novel I'll Take it! I laughed pretty much continuously for 29 pages. I show my copy from 20 years ago because I love the original jacket and the author photo. I may have to go back and read it again, and I never do that.

Voicing concern that some of the other essays did not live up, my friend Matt (another bookseller) assured me that there were very few clunkers and their advance copy was making their way to every sophisticated reader (in this particular case, all of them happen to be gay men) in the store.

Oh, and if my ex-coworker James is reading this, there's pretty much an essay devoted to Mr. Rudnick's fondness for Peeps, which he eats as his interpretation of a nutritious meal. It's not just you!

Here are a couple of other people who liked the book:

"I Shudder is filled with deeply funny musings and adventures that elevate Paul Rudnick to the highest level of American comedy writing. It should be noted that I would be at the highest level of American comedy writing if I had Paul's early advantages."
--Steve Martin

"There's no book wiser or half as funny as I Shudder."
--David Sedaris (the quote is longer but my hands are tired)

And I don't have to tell you that Rudnick, in addition to being a very well-known comic screenwriter, was also the voice of the late, lamented Premiere's Libby Gelman-Waxner, do I?

No comments: