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Coyote V. Acme Hardcover – June 1, 1996


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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: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #340,892 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

More About the Author

Ian Frazier is the author of Great Plains, The Fish's Eye, On the Rez, and Family, as well as Coyote v. Acme and Dating Your Mom, all published by FSG. A frequent contributor to The New Yorker, he lives in Montclair, New Jersey.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful 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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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Ricky Hunter on May 13, 2001
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By bronx book nerd VINE VOICE on October 20, 2008
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 6, 1998
Format: Paperback
If you are having increasing difficulty finding a book, movie or TV show which actually makes you laugh out loud, buy "Coyote vs. Acme." Even the most jaded of readers (me) cannot help but howl at the truly inspired and funny stuff Mr. Frazier includes, page after blessed page.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 6, 1998
Format: Paperback
Mr. Frazier may be hearing from my attorneys soon, as I may have ruptured something laughing at the title story. That alone would be worth the price of the book, but the rest of it, while not always gut-wrenchingly hilarious, should not be read in a hospital corridor.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 12, 1998
Format: Paperback
I first encountered Ian Frazier through "Dating Your Mom," which is one of the funniest books I've ever read. Then I read "Great Plains" and "Family," both of which are excellent but rather melancholy books. I don't know if it's me or him, but reading "Coyote vs. Acme" I couldn't help thinking that Frazier wasn't really laughing most of the time, so I wasn't laughing much either. The title story and a couple of others were pretty funny, but I would recommend "Dating Your Mom" for more laughs and his other books to correct your overly optimistic view of human nature.
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Format: Paperback
In concept, Frazier's book should turn out great: twenty-two essay/short-story hybrids, each satirizing a different topic in American culture from a different point-of-view. However, in execution, Frazier falls between otiose wit and contrived, trying-too-hard absurdity.

I was prepared to fall in love with this collection after reading the first essay. "The Last Segment" depicts the unity that The Mary Tyler Moore Show brought to the world, almost convincing me that a balance was thrown off upon the cancellation of the series. The writing is pretty good, too: informal, yet, poetic, with a prose-poem that could stand alone thrown in the middle for good measure. I feel that this essay was written closer to Frazier's true thoughts as a humorist, pop-culturist, and literary scholar.

With the next essays came the bad humor I could fish out of freshman creative writing workshops and/or Dave Barry books: dumb, knee-slapping groaners that appeal to middle-aged housewives, clever kids with nothing to say, and old men who are pragmatically tactful and ignorant as to how what's funny has changed since their glory days. This sort of "nyuk nyuk" crap ruins almost all of the book, and only parts of essays interested me as I read beyond "The Last Segment."

Perhaps it's my own taste in comedy coming through, but my ears perk up a bit whenever Frazier touches upon pop-culture topics. Unfortunately, this potential fruits nothing. "Coyote v. Acme" is as predictable as you think it is. "Bowell's Life of Don Johnson" could have been extremely funny if it had forgone the broader appeal of trying to portray some schmuck talking about "his buddy" Don Johnson as this everyday guy and made some cracks geared towards Miami Vice and Johnson's failed music career.
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