Top critical review
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on January 30, 2005
Here's the quick and dirty on Steve Martin's Pure Drivel:
About 90% of the pieces are clever;
About 60% of the pieces are witty;
About 40% of the pieces are funny (funny enough to cause an audible chortle, guffaw or even a wry smile).
Steve Martin is a very crisp and smart writer. His mastery of the written word and imagination are on full display here and show why he often writes successful movie scripts.
Pure Drivel is a thin collection of short essays Martin wrote for The New Yorker (whose readership I've always thought feels it must support the clever even if it is not concurrently the witty). The topics are as wide ranging as you could imagine: a report on the shortage of an important article of punctuation; a Lucy and Desi script, Lolita (yes, that Lolita) at age fifty (this is a gem), a future report on the devastation caused by the Y3K bug, and assorted other topics not joined by any relation other than birth from the wellspring of Martin's mind.
I read this in three sittings, which I think was a mistake. Sometimes for me, humor collections fall off if taken in too large a bite. I usually laugh out loud at Dave Barry's weekly columns but found his essay collections repetitive. Same for Letterman Top Ten Lists. I would advise the reader to place this book at a convenient location in the bathroom when the five or ten minute literary piece is required for maximum enjoyment.