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Coyote V. Acme Hardcover – June, 1996

3.1 out of 5 stars 42 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Ian Frazier collects some of his funniest essays from The New Yorker and The Atlantic Monthlyin Coyote v. Acme. Setting the tone is the title piece, consisting of the legal brief filed on behalf of the hapless character who has been irreparably harmed by manufacturer's negligence while pursuing the Road Runner. An excerpt: "As Mr. Coyote gripped the handlebars, the Rocket Sled accelerated with such sudden and precipitate force as to stretch Mr. Coyote's forelimbs to a length of fifty feet."

Throughout the nearly two-dozen essays, Frazier demonstrates his remarkable gift for language: he parodies everything from New Yorkers' talent for "getting in people's faces," to the IRS (while using some actual government-issued verbiage), and he mixes the classic with the less-than-classic in Boswell's Life of Don Johnson.

From Publishers Weekly

Frazier's deadpan comic voice was once a staple for New Yorker readers. Two previous book collections resulted: Dating Your Mom (1986), an assembly of very short pieces, and Nobody Better, Better Than Nobody (1987), featuring longer essays and profiles of odd denizens of American culture, a much superior showcase for the author's prodigious narrative and journalistic skills. These later came into full flower in his acclaimed travel volume, Great Plains (1989), and in last year's moving Frazier genealogy, Family. This latest collection, much of it also from the New Yorker, harks back to Mom?short, arch, cynical takes on some of the idiocies of American life: letters from banks crowing about their human services; the habit of highbrow reviewers of insisting that impersonal entities ("Language," "Dublin") in a play or a film are in fact "characters." As usual, Frazier is awfully good, smart and wicked at the same time. "Boswell's Don Johnson," for example, is a hilarious ditty written after the style of the famous biographer, but in this case he is engaged in hagiography of the star of Miami Vice. The title essay, with its exposition, in deadly legalese, of one Wile E. Coyote's complaints against a generic purveyor of explosive devices, shows Frazier's great comic range, however trite the subject. Although this book is not Frazier at full-bore, readers of his generation will find an occasional cultural reference long thought lost, and find themselves oddly beholden to a fellow who can resurrect Billy Joe McCallister from beneath the Tallahatchie Bridge.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 117 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux; 1st edition (June 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374130337
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374130336
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.7 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #600,811 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Brian Connors VINE VOICE on September 12, 2002
Format: Hardcover
How many things can you say about this book? Until I got around to reading Fight Club, this was easily the strangest book I'd ever read. The title essay is pretty fun (if skewering the conventions of things like legalese makes you laugh; it works for me) but the real humor in the book comes from stretching things to their logical extremes. Where Frazier does that, it's funny. Where he doesn't, it often doesn't quite work (previously mentioned was the Satanist university president, an essay that fails to make sense even in Frazier's cockeyed world view).
So we see the traumatic aftereffects of the cancellation of one of the better-known classic sitcoms, part of La Femme Nikita's tax return, the concerns of a life insurance agency that deals with soap opera characters, and the comparison of a woman's laugh to brandy by firelight (really impossible to explain without reading it). There is also juxtaposition of extreme ideas; We see bank bureaucracy not merely run amok but deliberately driven off the rails. We see a mild-mannered Great Gatsby-ish short story suddenly invaded by a German Panzergruppe. We see the poetry of Don Johnson. We see a Martha Stewart-type character named Elsa disposing of incriminating evidence.
This is an excellent book, but with one caveat: it simply is not going to appeal to everyone, no matter how someone might try to sell it. Mr. Frazier's work here reflects a sense of the surreal more extreme than Monty Python, up in the range of Andy Kaufman or Emo Phillips, and that sort of edgy comedy makes your brain hurt. I like it, though.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As most of the reviewers note, the title article is the best, and the only one I laughed out loud (for an embarrassingly long time) at, but he takes his creativity to places most people wouldn't and he makes them all pay off in one way or another. This is the 5th book of his I've read, and I will keep buying them as well as enjoying everything he writes for the New Yorker. It is probably more for fans, and you may find some of the others funnier, but don't hold that against this book.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Ian Frazier is one funny guy. His "Shouts and Murmurs" column in the New Yorker is consistantly humorous. But he hit his stride with "Coyote V. Acme," a laugh-out-loud summation by Wily Coyote's lawyer explaining the physical and emotional grief his client has come to as a consequence of the Acme Company's continued product failures. If you've ever seen a Roadrunner cartoon (and who hasn't?), this story alone is worth the price of the book. But there's more, lots more, in this collection of short stories. It ain't Shakespeare, but then again when did Shakespeare make you laugh this hard? Macbeth doesn't count.
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I was a little disappointed at first that the actual Coyote V. Acme was only a small part of the book. However, the other essays were well worth reading. Ian Frazier has a dry wit and great sense of the absurd.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
But still good. This is entertaining, but I was expecting more material on Coyote vs Acme, not just one "Filing" if you will. This is a collection of humerus articles about many different subjects.
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Format: Paperback
Ian Frazier's Coyote v. Acme will not please everyone as the humour is not always accessible but when it clicks, it clicks with a sweet, funny vengence. I did not understand all the humour but could surprisingly even enjoy the whimsy of the essays that were swimming just a little above my head. And each small essay is short enough to either get or not get and then move on to the next one. In a short space of time there should something of great humour for the reader and, often, many things. Because of the rather esoteric style of the humour, the book even stands up to repeated readings, something that is very rare in a book of humour.
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Format: Hardcover
I picked us this book after reading Lamentations of the Father: Essays by the same author. That book floored me with its almost 100% hysterical essays. This one was a disappointment. There was a little too much high-brow New Yorker humor that seems to be only for the inside, elite crowd, like the New Yorker cartoons which mostly leave me befuddled. The last three pieces and the piece which is the title of the book were really funny. The rest just didn't cut it. If you can get your hands on those other pieces it's probably better than inversting in the whole book.
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The only essay in the whole book that I enjoyed was the Coyote vs. Acme one. That was very funny. The rest of the book was just stupid. Most of it didn't make sense at all and wasn't the least bit funny either.
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