Lamentations of the Father: Essays


Ian Frazier is unquestionably one of America's greatest living humorists, a writer with a distinct, generous sensibility and a thousand different voices. His work is hilarious, elegant, and piercing, drawing on high and low cultureto expose the warped line of thought running beneath our public selves. When The Atlantic Monthly published four humorists among the best writing ever to appear in the magazine, they chose essays by Mark Twain, James Thurber, Kurt Vonnegut, and Ian Frazier's "Lamentations of the ...

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Ian Frazier is unquestionably one of America's greatest living humorists, a writer with a distinct, generous sensibility and a thousand different voices. His work is hilarious, elegant, and piercing, drawing on high and low cultureto expose the warped line of thought running beneath our public selves. When The Atlantic Monthly published four humorists among the best writing ever to appear in the magazine, they chose essays by Mark Twain, James Thurber, Kurt Vonnegut, and Ian Frazier's "Lamentations of the Father." This collection, gathered from the past fourteen years of his career, once again proves him worthy of that great company.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"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

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 Birdaao") 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.
Library Journal

Written over the past several years, the 35 essays in this companion to Dating Your Mom(1985) and Coyote v. Acme(1996) are 35 more reasons to consider New Yorker contributor Frazier one of America's premier humorists. With the title piece, which has been anthologized numerous times since its 1997 publication, Frazier sets a standard of excellence for the collection from which he never wavers. "How To Operate the Shower Curtain," instructions for his houseguests, is likely to become another classic, copied and prominently placed in guest bathrooms across America. Frazier finds humor in such unexpected places as the "sudden" death of a 97-year-old man, the description by the FBI of Osama bin Laden's build as "thin," and the challenges of information overload, which require our minds to distinguish among H.G. Wells, George Orwell, Orson Welles, and Orson Bean. Each piece is a delight, proving Frazier a master craftsman and sure to leave readers trying to narrow their list of favorites. Not to be missed; highly recommended for all libraries.
—Anthony Pucci

Kirkus Reviews
Another hilarious collection from essayist/humorist Frazier (Gone to New York: Adventures in the City, 2005, etc.). A longtime New Yorker-and prolific contributor to the magazine of the same name-Frazier has previously mined the city for comic gold to share stories about his encounters with strangers and interactions with his wife and children, all filtered through his self-deprecating voice. He now lives in New Jersey, where his dry humor is used to great effect, whether he's recounting his duty as household dishwasher or noting details about the FBI poster for Osama bin Laden at the post office. This book takes its title from Frazier's 1997 essay included in the Atlantic Monthly's 150th anniversary collection of best writing. Other pieces are based on recognizable current events and pop-culture icons, such as "My Wife Liz," full of details about the author's fictional marriage to Elizabeth Taylor: "Some people say that there should be certain minimum standards you have to meet in order to qualify as an ex-husband of Elizabeth Taylor's, and that I (and a few other guys) don't make the grade. Utter garbage!" Most of the 30-odd pieces are only a few pages long, offering up perfect snapshots of absurdities and imagined vignettes. The narrator of "Caught"-the coyote who was trapped for two days in Central Park in 2006-takes a Holden Caulfield approach to his new-found recognition: "If you're really interested in hearing all this, you probably first want to know where I was whelped, and what my parents' dumb burrow was like, and how they started me out hunting field mice, and all the Call of the Wild kind of crap, but I'd really rather not go into it, if that's all right with you." Frazier isa masterful comedian whose seeming lack of overconfidence not only endears him to readers but also invites identification, particularly in humiliating situations. His sense of humor is so uncanny and surprising it's nearly impossible not to be charmed. Highly entertaining.
The Barnes & Noble Review
Ian Frazier has a gimlet eye and a brain pickled in the juices of S. J. Perelman, Robert Benchley, and Art Buchwald. As one of America's best living humorists, Frazier can effortlessly turn a newspaper clipping about the greenhouse effect into biting political satire: ?President Bush has called for a decade of additional research on global warming, but needs more time to decide which decade it will be, assistants to the president announced today. So far, 2060-2070 'looks nice,' said one insider, though other decades have not been ruled out.? In his new collection of humorous essays, Lamentations of the Father, Frazier squints his eye at such topics as middle-age memory loss, an updated version of Laura Ingalls Wilder (?Little House off the Highway?), class notes from an alumni newsletter (?Jim Carmichael writes that he happened to see Marc Weinstein in the Salt Lake City airport not long ago and pretended not to recognize him?), and how to operate a motel room shower curtain. Lamentations of the Father is not as consistently funny as Frazier's earlier Coyote v. Acme (despite trying to strike lightning twice with the similar ?Th-Th-That's Not All, Folks?), and some of the essays lie on these pages like lead ingots, proving that humor is the trickiest of tightrope walks for a writer. However, when Frazier's rapier wit is sharpest -- as in the book's title piece and two others that summon the ghost of Erma Bombeck, ?A Cursing Mommy Christmas? and ?The Cursing Mommy Cookbook? -- there is no one who can make you laugh louder on a crowded subway than our generation's Thurber. --David Abrams
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312428358
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 5/26/2009
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 982,298
  • Product dimensions: 5.46 (w) x 8.26 (h) x 0.56 (d)

Meet the Author

IAN FRAZIER is the author of nine books. A frequent contributor to The New Yorker, he lives in Montclair, New Jersey.

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Table of Contents

Kisses All Around 3

Laws Concerning Food and Drink; Household Principles; Lamentations of the Father 8

Tomorrow's Bird 14

Little House off the Highway 19

Th-Th-That's Not All, Folks 25

My Wife Liz 30

Walking Tour 35

The American Persuasion 45

Techno-Thriller 51

The Cursing Mommy Cookbook 57

Veni, Vidi, Vici, Etc. 60

Kidproof 65

The Not-So-Public Enemy 72

Unbowed 78

The New Poetry 82

Researchers Say 88

Warmer, Warmer 93

A Cursing Mommy Christmas 99

Come Back, Suckers! 103

From Across the Pond 107

Everlasting 112

Class Notes 117

Back in the U.S.A. 122

He, the Murderer 127

No. Please, No 132

If Memory Doesn't Serve 136

Kid Court 144

Here to Tell You 149

Chinese Arithmetic 154

Square One 158

Pensees d'Automne 164

Caught 171

Thin Enough 177

Downpaging 182

How to Operate the Shower Curtain 187

What I Am 191

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