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Your Wildest Dreams, Within Reason Paperback – March 1, 2011
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"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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From Publishers Weekly
Sacks (coauthor of Sex: Our Bodies, Our Junk) offers 54 short humor pieces, including 25 written in collaboration with fellow humor writers Todd Levin, Scott Jacobson, Bob Powers, Jason Roeder, Scott Rothman, Will Tracy, Ted Travelstead, and Teddy Wayne. The essays, many of which were published in McSweeney's and the New Yorker, is a selection of contemporary social satires, such as signs a college is not very prestigious ("Marching band uses only handclaps") and a bridegroom on Twitter ("Attempting to fist-bump rabbi"). The essays include icebreakers to avoid ("This party reminds me of 9/11"); a director's commentary on the DVD rerelease of a 1990 bar mitzvah video; and a rejection letter to Anne Frank: "Unfortunately, we receive so many unsolicited teenage diaries composed in European attics that it is impossible to publish each one." Highlighting this often hilarious book are Yu's many illustrations, such as the inclusion of Pynchon's muted post horn, and Sancton's 10 drawings depicting "Everyday Tantric Positions" as well as an eight-page pantomime comic strip from Esquire about frustrating Ikea assembly instructions. (Mar. 15)
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Previously published in such publications as McSweeney�s and the New Yorker, these comic pieces should appeal to fans of offbeat humor. It�s difficult to categorize the book because, as Sacks freely admits, the pieces have no �overarching theme, no recurring characters, nothing that links one piece to another.� The pieces, many of them cowritten with Sacks� fellow humorists, range from satire to parody to faux-autobiography (�My Parents�) to instructional articles (�When Making Love to Me: What Every Woman Needs to Know�) to fake correspondence with famous writers to, well, the just plain indescribable (�The Rejection of Anne Frank�). Sacks and his various coauthors are gifted humorists, and it�s safe to say that any reader will emit chuckles, guffaws, and chortles while perusing nearly every page. Some of the material here is rather graphic, especially the illustrated �Everyday Tantric Positions!� and �Kama Sutra: The Corrections.� Recommend this one to adult readers with highly developed funny bones. --David Pitt
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Your WIldest Dreams is hysterical-you will see yourself in its well-meaning, inept, deranged heroes like Rhon Penny (silent h), Mike the Talking Horse, and Jimmy Jam Johnson, classic rock DJ having a nervous breakdown. You will learn that philosopher Thomas Aquinas was "hung like a champ" and what you might do with someone you've just met at a hospital chapel. Your sobs and laughter will be indistinguishable.
In a million years, as archaeologists search for answers about the decline of the once mighty American white man, they shall find what they seek in Your Wildest Dreams.
I promise Sacks' jokes are funnier than mine.
Now Northwest Portland publisher Tin House Books has put out a collection of Sacks's humorous essays. A majority Sacks wrote himself, though he credits others with co-authorship on about 25 of the 54 pieces. Small, sharp illustrations by Tae Won Yu adorn the text.
The book is festooned with rave quotes from friends and colleagues such as David Sedaris and Mike Sweeney, but it reads unevenly. The voice in many of the pieces, though unrelated to one another, is that of an upbeat, unselfconscious jerk who swears to his ex girlfriend that he has changed, has big plans for a can't-lose, get-rich-quick scheme, or is inviting everyone to a really great party (or recovering from one).
One of the best pieces is an "outsourced love letter" to a wife, composed by a lowly consultant in India in the pay of its official author, who is golfing in Bermuda. A groom who tweets constantly throughout the wedding ceremony and the honeymoon night, a publisher's rejection letter to Anne Frank, and a director's commentary for the DVD of his first job (a bar mitzvah) number among the most successful bits.
Different readers may be charmed - or left unmoved - by the divergent tones throughout the book. Sacks veers between sex-and-drugs humor and upper-brow references such as "Famous Philosophers and How They Were First Discovered." Treating Aquinas, William of Ockham, and Bernard of Clairvaux like celebrities who landed a big break at some point à la Lana Turner at a Hollywood soda fountain probably won't come off for most readers.
More successful are wildly incongruous pairings of content and tone, such as the "Corrections," which fixes errors in the captions to illustrations of sex acts from the Kama Sutra. Or a series of letters written by aspiring writer/loser Rhon Penny "(silent h)" to Thomas Pynchon suggesting they blurb each other's books; to Don DeLillo to propose a writing partnership so DeLillo can get more books out each year; and to the estate of John Updike to advance the notion of having Penny publish new books under Updike's name the way other writers have written in the guise the late V.C. Andrews ... even if Updike was a little "too serious and stuck-up" to appeal to Penny, personally.
In sum, Your Wildest Dreams, Within Reason hits and misses. Its inconsistent wit may appeal more to younger readers than the urbane, older audience toward which it sometimes reaches.