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Superbad: Stories and Pieces Hardcover – November 1, 2001


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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Just when you think Greenman has thoroughly excavated all available humor, he surprises with a snipe from an unforeseen direction." -- Time Out, July 2001

About the Author

Ben Greenman is an editor at The New Yorker. His fiction and journalsim have appeared in many publications, including The New Yorker, McSweeney's, and Miami New Times.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 210 pages
  • Publisher: McSweeney's (November 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0970335571
  • ISBN-13: 978-0970335579
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,888,202 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author



Ben Greenman is an editor at The New Yorker and the author of the underground indie hits Please Step Back, Superbad, and A Circle is a Balloon and Compass Both. His short fiction and music criticism has appeared in The New Yorker, the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Paris Review, and he writes a regular comedy column for McSweeney's. He lives in Brooklyn.

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 12, 2002
Format: Hardcover
If all goes just right, Ben Greenman should be my favorite writer 10-15 years from now. His sensibilities are my sensibilities, his tastes my tastes, his humor my humor. This is merely a personal matter, but let's face it - what higher praise can you give a writer? I only hope that he and I would agree on where his current strengths and weaknesses lie.
Greenman's two major affiliations define the literary worlds his fiction straddles: McSweeney's and The New Yorker. His writing trades in the brash cockiness and occasional absurdism of the former, as well as the staid "contemporary traditionalism" of the latter - but it does this by turns, not simultaneously. This may be because the two are too disparate to be reconciled, but the impression I get is that Greenman's loyalties are simply too divided: he doesn't want to have his cake and eat it too, unfortunately; he's perfectly content with two cakes. The result is a book whose individual pieces are fine for the most part, but whose overall personality feels split. It's not so much that he keeps his "serious" and "comic" pieces separate; it's that he reserves all his insight and substance for the one and leaves many humorous pieces thin and smirky.
As is the case with many first books from young writers, it's easy to play "spot the influence" while reading Superbad. Greenman has ingested, but not completely digested, his forebears, especially the three B's: Borges, Barth, and Barthelme (the last of whose estate ought to get a percentage of profits from "In the Presence of the General" and several other pieces here), with a healthy dose of Woody Allen thrown in, and a dash of Calvino for good measure. Hell, "Fun with Time" even seems to owe a debt to Yoko Ono's "Grapefruit.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful By William Turner on February 1, 2002
Format: Hardcover
If Mr. Greenman wouldn't try so hard to be clever and witty, this could be a fantastic book. Unfortunately, much of the humor seems to forced and is at times, painful to read. I can almost feel him over my shoulder, telling me "Look, isn't that a clever twist. Oh! That's so funny! You should be laughing now!" I did laugh after the first few stories, but then when I knew I was supposed to be laughing, I didn't.
There are a few real gems in these stories, but many fall short of greatness. I feel they were just included to fatten up the book. Oh, and those "musicals" need to go.
I really wanted to like all the pieces in this book, but I just couldn't. The writing didn't seem sincere to me. Don't try so hard to be clever, and make me laugh. I can figure that out myself.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Alan Henderson on November 26, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I noticed that the first review of this book was supposedly written by the author's mother, which is both funny and probably not true. I have followed Ben Greenman's work on McSweeneys since he started publishing, and I can say with some confidence that he is one of the twistiest writers I have ever read. Sometimes this is slightly annoying -- there's so much trickery built into every piece that it can be exhausting. But sometimes it can be exhilarating. I have been really looking forward to this book for months, both because it collects some of my favorite pieces from the McSweeneys site, and because there seem to be lots of new pieces. One of them, a story called "Snapshot," is one of the best short stories I have ever read, and it's not a humor piece at all. This is the least boring book I have read in years.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Valerie Robinson on December 7, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I never planned to write a review of this book, but I read the Joan Finaly review and a few things about it outraged me. I don't know if this other reviewer has followed Ben Greenman's work on the McSweeney's Website, but so much of what he does is about breaking down expectations exactly like this: that stories have to be a certain length, or that attention spans have to begin and end within a single story. There are are longer stories in this book, but I don't think that's the point. Neither is some old lady's concept of unity or coherentness. I'm not saying the book is perfect. It's annoying lots of the time. But there are too few books like this, and too many readers like that.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Joan Finlay on November 13, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Superbad is, in part, inspired and, regretfully, often tired. It reads like the results of a college semester-long introduction to Creative Writing, the assignments of which lie within the bound pages of this book. Mr. Greenman has some true gems here, and as a prose essayist he excels (read the interview with the founder of Nearism for proof). However, too often the short pieces in Superbad ask, "Is this really writing? Is there a plot?" The reader begins to ask these same questions, and too often the work becomes tiresome in its quest to challenge and redefine contemporary fiction and prose writing styles.
Toward the end of this book, I began to wonder if Mr. Greenman could sit still long enough to compose a complete work of prose, either in novel form or a continous narrative, or if he becomes too bored or disinterested to do so. There is great merit in writing the short story, which is a true talent indeed, but even Mr. Greenman's short pieces seem incomplete.
A frustrating piece, that shines in parts, but is unrealized in others.
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