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Seven Dirty Words: The Life and Crimes of George Carlin Paperback – Bargain Price, May 24, 2011

3.7 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A recipient of the Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, stand-up comedian Carlin (1937–2008) wrote three bestselling humor books and looked back over his five-decade career in his recent memoir, Last Words. Now music journalist and culture critic Sullivan, a contributor to Rolling Stone and the San Francisco Chronicle, offers an overview, starting with the young Carlin in 1950s New York. The Air Force sent him off to Louisiana, where he began as a Shreveport radio personality. As a DJ in Fort Worth, Tex., he polished a comedy act with Jack Burns, and the two left for the West Coast, performing together for two years before they split in 1962. Going solo, Carlin's taboo topics and subversive attitude took center stage. In this linear summary of Carlin's career, Sullivan dissects the comedian's classic iconoclastic routines, probes his working methods and successfully captures his rocketlike ascent to fame from night clubs and the 1960s comedic cauldron of Greenwich Village to television acclaim, controversy, and creative conflicts. However, those who want to experience a full explosion of the cynical and caustic Carlin blasting off minus the heat shields should instead seek out the finely tuned and wit-saturated Last Words. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

Creative Loafing Charlotte, 6/7/11
“[A] detailed look at Carlin's life, which helps fill in some of the gaps in the comedy legend's own version. Sullivan does a good job of presenting a linear rundown of the various incarnations Carlin went through in his 71 years…He's smart enough to let Carlin's story tell itself—and to put it in the context of how one man's inner growth matched the changes many people in America were going through at the same time.”

Smoke, Summer 2011
“[The] definitive biography of the Catholic boy for whom nothing was sacred…This is a must-read not just for fans of Carlin, but for any student of American culture.”

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; First Trade Paper Edition edition (May 24, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306819694
  • ASIN: B006J3WMHG
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,363,589 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This boring book has many of the basic facts of Carlin's life (in a dull city-by-city, appearance-by-appearance manner) but is nothing more than an elongated Wikipedia entry with no context and material pulled completely from magazine or TV interviews. The writing style is like reading a term paper and the author has an annoying way of stopping the narrative when he gets to a new Carlin experience to explain the person or show Carlin works with. For example, the writer can't just say Carlin was on the Mike Douglas Show or Merv Griffin Show, he has to give a history of each of the shows' hosts before getting back to Carlin!

There are many problems with this book but the main one is that the author appears to be championing Carlin when an objective writer would provide perspective. I'm glad I read it only because I now understand a little of what made the comedian tick--he was a rebellious Irish Catholic whose dad abandoned the family and died when George was only 8. He had no male authority at home and quickly became a trouble-making brat who skipped through numerous schools, got kicked out of camp, never graduated high school, got in trouble with the law, and got addicted to drugs. Namely, he was screwed up since childhood and that came out in his comedy routines.

If you're looking for behind-the-scenes details on things like how he worked with Marlo Thomas or Doris Day while performing a raunchy comedy act you'll not find it here. Neither as famous or brilliant as this writer claims, Carlin remains a bit of a mystery after reading this. The basic facts are here without depth but when they're told in boring book-report style you end up not feeling you really know the person.
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Format: Hardcover
If you are interested in George Carlin, first read all his books, watch his DVDs and CDs and you will have it all...he said so himself, everything is there. If you want further information his own autobiography is the place to start. I enjoyed his autobiography but felt it left out much and this book to its credit does fill in a bit of the information I was hoping to find out which pertained to the business of his career , his switch in style and look etc..which I felt George glossed over too quickly in his own memoir.

The first nearly 100 pages of this book however were pretty grueling going and if you've read George's own book could be skipped...go to where he is a working stand up after his partnership with Jack Burns and the rest of the book has many interesting points to make and the author is good at pointing out how Carlins career relates to other events in media and our culture.

Bottom line, if you have all the DVDs, CDs and books and want more...then by all means invest...but ONLY after you have exhausted the complete Carlin authored material.
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Format: Paperback
As a fan of George Carlin for many years, I was disappointed in this book. George was certainly no angel, and he had many personal problems. George certainly was the most thought provoking comedian of his time. Sullivan's treatment of his life seemed to become a litany of his gigs, one after the other.
The book also reveals little of comedy as well. If you are a big fan of George Carlin, then this book provides some info that I had been previously unaware of. If you are looking for a book with a lot of laughs, this is not it!!!!
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Format: Kindle Edition
This is George Carlin's biography, written after his death. It presents selected aspects of his life. There is a fair amount of material about his childhood, his pre-comedy jobs, the dues-paying period of his early career, as well as his later show businesses contacts and successes. There are few words about his thirty-four year marriage, his wife, or his other family members. These omissions leave the reader wondering whether we are seeing "the real Carlin" of his later life or simply an elaboration of his stage persona as America's stoner linguist.

The book's high points include:

- Early comedy influences and famous people George met on the way up.
- Snapshots of some of his better-known sketches as they evolved over time.
- History of the "dirty words" Supreme Court case and its effects.
- Carlin's running battle with censors and audience members on stage and TV.
- Drugs, drugs, drugs and occasional rehab.

The overall picture is of a high school stoner who made good. Carlin's comedy routines were developing long before he began trying to build relevance around them. His message matched his times as a more specialized version of rebellion against convention and authority. He did some good by inviting us to look more closely at language. It's good for him and for the rest of us all that this all turned out so well.

George Carlin was a world-class comedian with a glib tongue and a well-honed sense of irony. But his language humor required listeners to skip along the surface, ignoring deeper meaning. This is good entertainment, but no kind of philosophy or politics. So read the book and give George his due. But not more than his due.
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Format: Kindle Edition
The author has done much research and it shows. If you are looking for gossip, you won't find it here. This was not an easy read, due in part to the slightly ponderous writing style. Still, there was a lot of information that was new to me.
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