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Lamentations of the Father: Essays Hardcover – April 29, 2008

4.4 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Accomplished social satirist Frazier's latest collection reminds us why the novelist and essayist is one of America's funniest living writers. The much-quoted title piece, originally published in the Atlantic Monthly, gives voice to every parent's battle with table manners, bath time and various laws, statutes and ordinances concerning biting (don't), sand (not edible) and pets (not to be taped). Equally entertaining are Frazier's self-declared role as spokesman for crows, complete with slogan (Crows: We Want to Be Your Only Birdâ„¢) and his mock exposé on the truth behind history's most famous phrases. Caesar's I came, I saw, I conquered is, according to Frazier, simply an early example of mankind's obsession with the sound bite, a snappier version of: I came, I saw, I conquered, I had a snack, I took a bath, and I went to bed, because I was exhausted. A treat for Frazier fanatics and new readers alike, this compilation from the past 13 years has nary a misstep and begs to be read in one sitting. Researchers, Frazier says, have determined that life is too hard. But it's easier with Frazier at the helm. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"Ian Frazier is an antidote for the blues."--The Boston Globe

"Being a funny guy doesn't always mesh with being a smart guy. In Frazier's case, however, the two seem one and the same."--The Christian Science Monitor

"Warning . . . reading [Frazier's essays] in the bathroom, on the subway, or in other heavy-traffic areas may force you to have to explain to others what's making you guffaw so loudly."--Entertainment Weekly

"America's greatest essayist."--The Los Angeles Times

"Frazier is a master of the trade and for those cursed with literacy, an absolute howl."--The Buffalo News

"Hilarious . . . [Frazier's] sense of humor is so uncanny and surprising it’s nearly impossible not to be charmed. Highly entertaining."--Kirkus Reviews


--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First Edition edition (April 29, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374281629
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374281625
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,100,008 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Lynn Harnett VINE VOICE on May 27, 2008
Format: Hardcover
As serious as he is funny, Frazier can deconstruct the historical accuracy of Daffy Duck with the same straight-faced relish he uses to savage corporate crooks and the "innovative thinking" of the Bush administration.

While his politics are definitely left leaning, he skewers pomposity, dogmatism and the babble of popular culture wherever it strikes his fancy - which is just about anywhere, from techno-thriller movies to the mythic figures of our time (like Russell Crowe), from the sound bite to guide book drivel, from the latest in scientific research to the ordinary family.

Especially the family. The book's funniest piece - in the sense of laugh-out-loud humor rather than fiendishly clever satire - is the title piece, "Lamentations of the Father." Published in 1997 when his children were small, it begins:

"Of the beasts of the field, and of the fishes of the sea and of all foods that are acceptable in my sight you may eat, but not in the living room."

And, from "What I Am," inspired by an accident of dishwasher loading in which his wife calls him an "idiot" and he objects, not to the characterization so much as the terminology: "Quite simply, `idiot' is not a nice word to call somebody, and I find myself asking, as Mr. Welch did of Senator Joseph McCarthy, `Have you no sense of decency, sir?' "

"The Cursing Mommy Cookbook" and "The Cursing Mommy Christmas" start out with Martha Stewart decorum and quickly, hysterically, devolve into familiar domestic chaos.

Others take a more quirky view - the tribulations of the absent expectant (maybe) father; the earnest murderer's family aspirations; coming of age among the right-wing militia.

Frazier started out as a staff writer for "The New Yorker" in the 70s and it shows.
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Format: Hardcover
How does a man become a murderer?

Not the kind of question you and I ask ourselves, but Ian Frazier has thought deeply. Done the homework. And, in "He, The Murderer", he reports back:

On an aptitude test, "Murderer" was the category he scored highest in. By then, he'd already murdered a couple of guys, just fooling around. He kind of liked it. One thing led to another.

It's not all roses, this business of killing people. For one thing:

Now he wishes he'd murdered more people when he was younger. You reach the age of forty, forty-five, and you can't react like you used to when you were twenty.

For another:

Everybody's got his hand out these days, wanting a favor. "Hey, Ronnie, can you murder my nephew?" "Ronnie, my man, if you got a second, could you murder the head of the Plumbers and Contractors Union?" "Yo, Uncle Ronnie, how about doing a little murdering for us, pro bono?" Like always, friends and family take advantage.

To no one's surprise, he wants better for the next generation:

He is determined that his son will not have to murder people when he gets big, and will be able to make a good living simply by injuring them.

And then....but you see what happens. You start reading an Ian Frazier piece, and the next thing you know you're quoting him to anyone in your zip code, and pretty soon you're reading the whole piece aloud. And this happens time after time, because on a good day there is no one better at smart-funny than Ian Frazier.

"Kisses All Around", for example, is letters of premature acknowledgment. The Pope's representative thanks Martin Luther for the 95 theses: "It's on the table next to his bed, and he will certainly get to it soon.
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Format: Hardcover
Lamentations of the Father is a hysterical collection of humor pieces. Frazier takes common experiences and deftly turns them into laugh riots. More literary in many ways than someone like Dave Barry, Frazier applies his smarts to subjects that you wouldn't think could be turned into humor, like how to operate a shower curtain. His parody of rap verses by substituting rappers with classic poets is incredibly funny, as are virtually all the pieces. My only criticisms: one piece on cursing mommy was sufficient; the murderer piece I actually fouind a bit disturbing. Nevertheless, if you want to laugh a lot, if you are married and have children, if you want to see a clever mind at play, read this book.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Frazier's "Lamentations of the Father" is a well known classic. You don't need this book in order to read that. Google it and you'll turn up a dozen different copies of it. Heck, you'll turn up a half dozen YouTube videos of Frazier reading it.

But, do yourself a favor and don't stop there. This is a compilation of some of the author's best loved, (and a few less well known), pieces and each one is worthy. These stories are smart and witty. They are amiable, but with the occasional bit of edge when warranted. It's a bit of parody as an inside joke, and a lot of mulling things over with an eye to the absurd. This is high end deadpan, carefully crafted, and spiced up with the timing of a real pro.

Lots of reviewers describe Frazier's essays as funny stuff for smart people. Well, that's a bit off-putting, but I think that's just something that the reviewers bring to the book, not something caused by Frazier. This is funny stuff written by a smart guy, one who doesn't just follow the usual predictable rules, but it's written for everyone, (or at least everyone who leaves the house every now and then). A very nice find.
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