A Load of Hooey

McSweeney's. Oct. 2014. 112p. illus. ISBN 9781938073885. $20; ebk. ISBN 9781940450667. HUMOR
Odenkirk (Saturday Night Live; Mr. Show with Bob and David) has been a successful television comedy writer for many years, but ironically it's his work as an actor—specifically his recent success playing shady lawyer Saul Goodman on Breaking Bad—that has raised the author's profile enough to make this collection marketable. This is Odenkirk's first book and he relishes making as many bibliographic gags as he can, such as placing the title in the context of the phony "Odenkirk Memorial Library" imprint and including an ironic dust-jacket photo. For readers who know his work as a performer, it is impossible to read this grab bag of scripted skits, reflective monologs, poems, and comic loose ends without hearing his wry voice throughout. Odenkirk's subject is inevitably some aspect of American culture: our motivations, our objects of reverence, our news-cycle jargon, and our obsession with public image, especially politics and celebrity. Some of the pieces are wonderfully surreal while others are very straightforward; many are whimsical and silly; none is longer than a few pages and the entire book can be read in a sitting or two. Ultimately, the volume fails as often as it succeeds in being funny but its shortcomings are redeemed by Odenkirk's willingness to experiment with the form, subject, and tone of his pieces.
VERDICT Those offended by dirty words and an irreverent treatment of Judeo-Christian religions should take a pass; those who read this and want more should seek out Steve Martin's Cruel Shoes, which is a likely antecedent.
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