Pure Drivel

( 14 )

Overview

From a wildly imaginative meditation on who Lolita would be at age fifty, to a send-up of the warning labels on medicine bottles, these pieces, many of which first appeared in The New Yorker, hilariously and intelligently skewer the topics at hand.
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Overview

From a wildly imaginative meditation on who Lolita would be at age fifty, to a send-up of the warning labels on medicine bottles, these pieces, many of which first appeared in The New Yorker, hilariously and intelligently skewer the topics at hand.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Salon
Like the fuzzy little puff of marabou on the instep of a coquette's satin bedroom slipper. . .Martin's book of diminuitive, often hilarious essays [is] . . .effortless and silly even as it's subtly erudite.
Elle Magazine
A gorgeous writer...At once melancholy and tart, achingly innocent and astonishingly ironic...A master at revealing the surreal poetry in pure drivel.
Susan Shapiro
The tone ranges from parody to irony to just plain silliness. . . .it's humor raised to the level of abstraction.
The New York Times Book Review
Devin L. Gordon
When Steve Martin writes, he really writes. . . . Martin crafts . . .essays, all tweaked with his light-bulb wit.
Newsweek
Elle
A gorgeous writer...At once melancholy and tart, achingly innocent and astonishingly ironic...A master at revealing the surreal poetry in pure drivel.
From The Critics
The failure of this audio performance is inexplicable, really, except as part of the mystery of what makes humor humorous.
Martin's essays, many of which first appeared in the New Yorker, simply were much funnier on the page. You'd expect that a comic's delivery would be a key part of his act, but Martin's voice just hangs there, twisting slowly, slowly in the wind. The tape virtually cries out for a laugh track.
Most of the essays bear some relationship to media, whether the subject involves a politician's mea culpa; a writers' crisis when the Times Roman font announces a shortage of periods; a dialogue among paparrazi in ancient times; or the "pure drivel" proudly narrated by the editor/publisher of the American Drivel Review.
Though deadpan, and at times silly, nothing here makes you want to laugh out loud.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
These short humor pieces, many of which first appeared in the New Yorker, represent a mixed bag. While actor/ comedian/writer Martin consistently comes up with clever lines, his conceits soar only about as often as they peter out. His opening offer, "A Public Apology," takes the politician's mea culpa to deadpan, ridiculous heights: "I had sex with a hundred-and-two-year old male turtle. It would be hard to argue that it was consensual." But the next piece, "Writing is Easy!" contains such clunkers as "Naked Belligerent Panties" as a recommended topic for up-and-coming writers. Martin's zones of inquiry include science, language, show biz and, of course, mating. Among the stand-outs: "Dear Amanda" recounts the belles lettres of mannerly stalker; "Taping My Friends" trips into a paranoid universe; "I Love Loosely" brings Lucy & Ricky to the "oral sex isn't sex debate;" and "Artist Lost to Zoloft" laments how pharmaceuticals affect the avant-garde. But the title piece okay, it's just called "Drivel", which concerns a duo linked by hyper-conscious irony, shows Martin straining for laughs. Sept.
Kelly
. . .[A] worthwhile collection of spankingly inventive, though sometimes affected, farcical essays. . . .[restores] lighness to the printed page. -- New York Magazine
Elle
The finest book ever written. Steve Martin is a gorgeous writer...at once melancholy and tart, achingly innocent and astonishingly ironic...A master at revealing the surreal poetry in pure drivel. The New York Times
Devin L. Gordon
When Steve Martin writes, he really writes. . . . Martin crafts . . .essays, all tweaked with his light-bulb wit. -- Newsweek
Kirkus Reviews
Martin (Cruel Shoes), star of stage and screen, and a guy once glimpsed with an arrow through his cranium, here toys with ink and paper. With a gathering just shy of two dozen little pieces, of which many originally appeared in the New Yorker, the comedian-actor-author offers commentary in the vein of his New Yorker forebears, S.J. Perelman, Robert Benchley, and Woody Allen. He has improved since his Cruel Shoes, arrow-in-the-head days; if he hasn't yet beaten those other worthies at their special game, Martin is at least a contender. He, like them, shows continuing evidence of linguistic hypomania, he's more than a bit mad on punctuation, words, et cetera. Like Perelman, he's also good at commentary on current and ephemeral events, like tripping up friends or relatives with clandestine recordings, or casting the roles of incumbent chief executive and first lady with Lucy and Ricky, or deconstructing a dumb remark by Marlon Brando. Especially sharp wit is brought to bear on the bicoastal drivel of showbiz luminaries, who babble of Prada leather pants in order to hide from the fans their real intellectual prowess. Certainly the Martin oeuvre is not uniform, never monotonous. True, there's a piece about an eager dog with a set-up that doesn't support the punch line, for example, but even a belabored item about a mature Lolita can offer lines like, 'Lo-lee-tah, she tongued. A column of sweat drained down the boy, and he entered puberty.' Three or so neat and nice pages even announce a shortage of periods in the Times Roman font, and the piece does indeed finally use just one of those very punctuation points. Lighter-than-air mockery. Often ingenious.
Salon
"Like the fuzzy little puff of marabou on the instep of a coquette's satin bedroom slipper . . . Martin's book of diminutive, often hilarious essays [is] . . . effortless and silly even as it's subtly erudite."
Elle
"Martin is a gorgeous writer capable of being at once melancholy and tart, achingly innocent and astonishingly ironic. He is a master at revealing the surreal poetry in pure drivel."
From the Publisher
"Like the fuzzy little puff of marabou on the instep of a coquette's satin bedroom slipper . . . Martin's book of diminutive, often hilarious essays [is] . . . effortless and silly even as it's subtly erudite."—Salon

"Martin is a gorgeous writer capable of being at once melancholy and tart, achingly innocent and astonishingly ironic. He is a master at revealing the surreal poetry in pure drivel."—Elle

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786864676
  • Publisher: Hyperion
  • Publication date: 9/16/1998
  • Pages: 112
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.44 (d)

Meet the Author

Steve Martin is a celebrated writer, actor, and performer. His film credits include Father of the Bride, Parenthood and The Spanish Prisoner, as well as Roxanne, L.A. Story, and Bowfinger, for which he also wrote the screenplays. He's won Emmys for his television writing and two Grammys for comedy albums. In addition to a play, Picasso at the Lapin Agile, he has written a bestselling collection of comic pieces, Pure Drivel, and a bestselling novella, Shopgirl. His work appears frequently in The New Yorker and The New York Times. He lives in New York and Los Angeles.

Biography

"If Woody Allen is the archetypal East Coast neurotic, Steve Martin is the ultimate West Coast wacko," Maureen Orth wrote for Newsweek in 1977. At the time, Martin was a star on the standup comedy circuit, known for his nose glasses, bunny ears and sudden attacks of "happy feet." More than 20 years later, the idea that the two are counterparts still seems apt: Like Woody Allen, Steve Martin has gone from comedy writer and performer to scriptwriter, director, playwright and book author. But while Woody Allen's transformation from angst-ridden intellectual into Bergman-inspired auteur was something fans might have anticipated, who would have guessed that the wild and crazy guy with the arrow through his head harbored a passion for philosophy, art and literature?

Growing up in Orange County, California, Martin worked afternoons, weekends and summers at Disneyland, where he learned to do magic tricks, make balloon animals and perform vaudeville routines. By the time he was 18, he was performing at Knott's Berry Farm while attending junior college. He was a bright but unenthusiastic student until a girlfriend (and her loan of Somerset Maugham's The Razor's Edge) inspired him to transfer to Long Beach State and major in philosophy. There, he delved into metaphysics, semantics and logic before concluding that he was meant for the arts. He transferred again, to the theater department at UCLA, and started performing comedy in local clubs. Truth in art, he later said, "can't be measured. You don't have to explain why, or justify anything. If it works, it works. As a performer, non sequiturs make sense, nonsense is real." (Aha -- there was a philosophical impulse behind those bunny ears.)

After a string of successful T.V. comedy-writing gigs, Martin got back into performing, and a few years later, he was landing spots on "The Tonight Show" and guest-hosting "Saturday Night Live," where he performed his famous King Tut routine. His first album, Let's Get Small, won a Grammy and was the best-selling comedy album of 1977. His first book, Cruel Shoes, was a collection of comic vignettes with titles like "How to Fold Soup" and "The Vengeful Curtain Rod." And his starring role in The Jerk kicked off a highly successful film career that includes more than 20 hit movies, including Roxanne and L.A. Story, both of which Martin wrote and directed.

Early on, critics classed Steve Martin with comedians like Martin Mull and Chevy Chase -- goofy white guys whose slapstick comedy had no overt political message, though it might have a postmodern touch of self-critique. But Martin kept scaling the heights of absurdity until he'd reached an altitude all his own. Beginning in 1994, he took two years off from movie acting to concentrate on his writing. The result was Picasso at the Lapin Agile, a surreal comedy about Picasso and Einstein that won critical and popular acclaim: "More laughs, more fun and more delight than anything currently on the New York stage," raved The New York Observer.

Though Martin went back to the movies, he also kept on writing, turning out several more plays and a series of ingeniously demented essays for The New Yorker and The New York Times, many of which are collected in book form in Pure Drivel. Then, in 2000, he surprised readers with his bestselling book Shopgirl, a tender, insightful novella about a Neiman Marcus clerk and her two suitors. These days, Martin is recognized as a "gorgeous writer capable of being at once melancholy and tart, achingly innocent and astonishingly ironic" (Elle). He's also been tapped to host ceremonies for the prestigious National Book Awards. It seems the man who once defined comedy as "acting stupid so other people can laugh" is in fact one of the smartest guys ever to emerge from L.A.

Good To Know

As a stand-up comedian on "The Tonight Show", Martin was demoted to guest-host nights for a while because Johnny Carson didn't think his act -- which could include reading from the phone book or telling jokes to four dogs onstage -- was funny.

After he became nationally famous as a comedian, Martin joked that his new wealth had allowed him to buy "some pretty good stuff. Got me a $300 pair of socks, got a fur sink ... let's see ... an electric dog-polisher, a gasoline-powered turtleneck sweater ... and of course I bought some dumb stuff, too." Actually, Martin is a serious art collector whose purchases include paintings and drawings by Roy Lichtenstein, Francis Bacon, Pablo Picasso and David Hockney.

Martin's marriage to the actress Victoria Tennant ended in 1994. But it was his subsequent breakup with actress Anne Heche that really broke his heart, he hinted in an Esquire interview. "I spent about a year recovering, and searching out myself and asking why things happened the way they did. I wrote a play about it, Patter for the Floating Lady. Oh, I shouldn't have told you that. I should have said I made it up."

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    1. Also Known As:
      Stephen Martin (full name)
    2. Hometown:
      Beverly Hills, California
    1. Date of Birth:
      August 14, 1945
    2. Place of Birth:
      Waco, Texas
    1. Education:
      Long Beach State College; University of California, Los Angeles
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

A Public Apology

Looking out over the East River from my jail cell and still running for public office, I realize that I have taken several actions in my life for which I owe public apologies.

Once, I won a supermarket sweepstakes even though my brother's cousin was a box boy in that very store. I would like to apologize to Safeway Food, Inc., and its employees. I would like to apologize to my family, who have stood by me, and especially to my wife Karen. A wiser and more loyal spouse could not be found.

When I was twenty-one, I smoked marijuana every day for one year. I would like to apologize for the next fifteen years of anxiety attacks and drug-related phobias, including the feeling that when Ed Sullivan introduced Wayne and Shuster, he was actually signaling my parents that I was high. I would like to apologize to my wife Karen, who still believes in me, and to the Marijuana Growers Association of Napa Valley and its affiliates for any embarrassment I may have caused them. I would also like to mention a little incident that took place in the Holiday Inn in Ypsilanti, Michigan, during that same time. I was lying in bed in room 342 and began counting ceiling tiles. Since the room was square, it was an easy computation, taking no longer than the weekend. As Sunday evening rolled around, I began to compute how many imaginary ceiling tiles it would take to cover the walls and floor of my room. When I checked out of the hotel, I flippantly told the clerk that it would take twelve hundred ninety-four imaginary ceiling tiles to fill the entire room.

Two weeks later, while attempting to break the record for consecutive listenings to "American Pie," I realized that I had included the real tiles in my calculation of imaginary tiles; I should have subtracted them from my total. I would like to apologize to the staff of the Holiday Inn for any inconvenience I may have caused, to the wonderful people at Universal Ceiling Tile, to my wife Karen, and to my two children, whose growth is stunted.

Several years ago, in California, I ate my first clam and said it tasted "like a gonad dipped in motor oil." I would like to apologize to Bob 'n' Betty's Clam Fiesta, and especially to Bob, who I found out later only had one testicle. I would like to apologize to the waitress June and her affiliates, and the DePaul family dog, who suffered the contents of my nauseated stomach.

There are several incidents of sexual harassment I would like to apologize for:

In 1992, I was interviewing one Ms. Anna Floyd for a secretarial position, when my pants accidentally fell down around my ankles as I was coincidentally saying, "Ever seen one of these before?" Even though I was referring to my new Pocket Tape Memo Taker, I would like to apologize to Ms. Floyd for any grief this misunderstanding might have caused her. I would also like to apologize to the Pocket Tape people, to their affiliates, and to my family, who have stood by me. I would like to apologize also to International Hardwood Designs, whose floor my pants fell upon. I would especially like to apologize to my wife Karen, whose constant understanding fills me with humility.

Once, in Hawaii, I had sex with a hundred-and-two-year-old male turtle. It would be hard to argue that it was consensual. I would like to apologize to the turtle, his family, the Kahala Hilton Hotel, and the hundred or so diners at the Hilton's outdoor cafe. I would also like to apologize to my loyal wife Karen, who had to endure the subsequent news item in the "Also Noted" section of the Santa Barbara Women's Club Weekly.

In 1987, I attended a bar mitzvah in Manhattan while wearing white gabardine pants, white patent-leather slippers, a blue blazer with gold buttons, and a yachting cap. I would like to apologize to the Jewish people, the State of Israel, my family, who have stood by me, and my wife Karen, who has endured my seventeen affairs and three out-of-wedlock children.

I would also like to apologize to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, for referring to its members as "colored people." My apology would not be complete if I didn't include my new wife, Nancy, who is of a pinkish tint, and our two children, who are white-colored.

Finally, I would like to apologize for spontaneously yelling the word "savages!" after losing six thousand dollars on a roulette spin at the Choctaw Nation Casino and Sports Book. When I was growing up, the usage of this word in our household closely approximated the Hawaiian aloha, and my use of it in the casino was meant to express "until we meet again."

Now on with the campaign!

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Table of Contents

A Public Apology.....................................................1
Writing Is Easy!.....................................................5
Yes, in My Own Backyard.............................................13
Changes in the Memory after Fifty...................................18
Mars Probe Finds Kittens............................................22
Dear Amanda.........................................................26
Times Roman Font Announces Shortage of Periods......................30
Schrodinger's Cat...................................................34
Taping My Friends...................................................38
The Nature of Matter and Its Antecedents............................43
The Sledgehammer: How It Works......................................47
The Paparazzi of Plato..............................................51
Side Effects........................................................55
Artist Lost to Zoloft...............................................59
How I Joined Mensa..................................................63
Michael Jackson's Old Face..........................................68
In Search of the Wily Filipino......................................71
Bad Dog.............................................................75
Hissy Fit...........................................................80
Drivel..............................................................87
I Love Loosely......................................................91
Lolita at Fifty.....................................................94
A Word from the Words..............................................100
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First Chapter


Chapter One

A Public Apology

*

Looking out over the East River from my jail cell and still running for public office, I realize that I have taken several actions in my life for which I owe public apologies.

    Once, I won a supermarket sweepstakes even though my brother's cousin was a box boy in that very store. I would like to apologize to Safeway Food, Inc., and its employees. I would like to apologize to my family, who have stood by me, and especially to my wife Karen. A wiser and more loyal spouse could not be found.

    When I was twenty-one, I smoked marijuana every day for one year. I would like to apologize for the next fifteen years of anxiety attacks and drug-related phobias, including the feeling that when Ed Sullivan introduced Wayne and Shuster, he was actually signaling my parents that I was high. I would like to apologize to my wife Karen, who still believes in me, and to the Marijuana Growers Association of Napa Valley and its affiliates for any embarrassment I may have caused them. I would also like to mention a little incident that took place in the Holiday Inn in Ypsilanti, Michigan, during that same time. I was lying in bed in room 342 and began counting ceiling tiles. Since the room was square, it was an easy computation, taking no longer than the weekend. As Sunday evening rolled around, I began to compute how many imaginary ceiling tiles it would take to cover the walls and floor of my room. When I checked out of the hotel, I flippantly told the clerk that it would take twelve hundred ninety-four imaginary ceiling tiles to fill the entire room.

    Two weeks later, while attempting to break the record for consecutive listenings to "American Pie," I realized that I had included the real tiles in my calculation of imaginary tiles; I should have subtracted them from my total. I would like to apologize to the staff of the Holiday Inn for any inconvenience I may have caused, to the wonderful people at Universal Ceiling Tile, to my wife Karen, and to my two children, whose growth is stunted.

    Several years ago, in California, I ate my first clam and said it tasted "like a gonad dipped in motor oil." I would like to apologize to Bob 'n' Betty's Clam Fiesta, and especially to Bob, who I found out later only had one testicle. I would like to apologize to the waitress June and her affiliates, and the DePaul family dog, who suffered the contents of my nauseated stomach.

    There are several incidents of sexual harassment I would like to apologize for:

    In 1992, I was interviewing one Ms. Anna Floyd for a secretarial position, when my pants accidentally fell down around my ankles as I was coincidentally saying, "Ever seen one of these before?" Even though I was referring to my new Pocket Tape Memo Taker, I would like to apologize to Ms. Floyd for any grief this misunderstanding might have caused her. I would also like to apologize to the Pocket Tape people, to their affiliates, and to my family, who have stood by me. I would like to apologize also to International Hardwood Designs, whose floor my pants fell upon. I would especially like to apologize to my wife Karen, whose constant understanding fills me with humility.

    Once, in Hawaii, I had sex with a hundred-and-two-year-old male turtle. It would be hard to argue that it was consensual. I would like to apologize to the turtle, his family, the Kahala Hilton Hotel, and the hundred or so diners at the Hilton's outdoor cafe. I would also like to apologize to my loyal wife Karen, who had to endure the subsequent news item in the "Also Noted" section of the Santa Barbara Women's Club Weekly.

    In 1987, I attended a bar mitzvah in Manhattan while wearing white gabardine pants, white patent-leather slippers, a blue blazer with gold buttons, and a yachting cap. I would like to apologize to the Jewish people, the State of Israel, my family, who have stood by me, and my wife Karen, who has endured my seventeen affairs and three out-of-wedlock children.

    I would also like to apologize to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, for referring to its members as "colored people." My apology would not be complete if I didn't include my new wife, Nancy, who is of a pinkish tint, and our two children, who are white-colored.

    Finally, I would like to apologize for spontaneously yelling the word "savages!" after losing six thousand dollars on a roulette spin at the Choctaw Nation Casino and Sports Book. When I was growing up, the usage of this word in our household closely approximated the Hawaiian aloha, and my use of it in the casino was meant to express "until we meet again."

    Now on with the campaign!


Chapter Two

Writing Is Easy!

*

Writing is one of the most easy, pain-free, and happy ways to pass the time in all the arts. For example, right now I am sitting in my rose garden and typing on my new computer. Each rose represents a story, so I'm never at a loss for what to write. I just look deep into the heart of the rose and read its story and write it down through typing, which I enjoy anyway. I could be typing "kjfiu joewmv jiw" and would enjoy it as much as typing words that actually make sense. I simply relish the movement of my fingers on the keys. Sometimes, it is true, agony visits the head of a writer. At these moments, I stop writing and relax with a coffee at my favorite restaurant, knowing that words can be changed, rethought, fiddled with, and, of course, ultimately denied. Painters don't have that luxury. If they go to a coffee shop, their paint dries into a hard mass.

Location, Location, Location

I would recommend to writers that they live in California, because here they can look up at the blue sky in between those moments of looking into the heart of a rose. I feel sorry for writers--and there are some pretty famous ones--who live in places like South America and Czechoslovakia, where I imagine it gets pretty dreary. These writers are easy to spot. Their books are often depressing and filled with disease and negativity. If you're going to write about disease, I would suggest that California is the place to do it. Dwarfism is never funny, but look at the result when it was dealt with out here in California. Seven happy dwarfs. Can you imagine seven dwarfs in Czechoslovakia? You would get seven melancholic dwarfs at best, seven melancholic dwarfs with no handicapped-parking spaces.

Love in the Time of Cholera: why it's a bad title

I admit that "Love in the time of ..." is a great title, so far. You're reading along, you're happy, it's about love, I like the way the word time comes in there, something nice in the association of love and time, like a new word almost, lovetime: nice, nice feeling. Suddenly, the morbid Cholera appears. I was happy till then. "Love in the Time of the Oozing Sores and Pustules" is probably an earlier, rejected title of this book, written in a rat-infested tree house on an old Smith-Corona. This writer, whoever he is, could have used a couple of weeks in Pacific Daylight Time.

    I did a little experiment. I decided to take the following disheartening passage, which was no doubt written in some depressing place, and attempt to rewrite it under the influence of California:

Most people deceive themselves with a pair of faiths: they believe in eternal memory (of people, things, deeds, nations) and in redressibility (of deeds, mistakes, sins, wrongs). Both are false faiths. In reality the opposite is true: everything will be forgotten and nothing will be redressed. (Milan Kundera)

Sitting in my garden, as the bees glide from flower to flower, I let the above paragraph filter through my mind. The following new paragraph emerged:

I feel pretty,
Oh so pretty,
I feel pretty and witty and bright.

Kundera was just too wordy. Sometimes the delete key is your greatest friend.

Writer's Block: A Myth

Writer's block is a fancy term made up by whiners so they can have an excuse to drink alcohol. Sure a writer can get stuck for a while, but when that happens to real authors, they simply go out and get an "as told to." The alternative is to hire yourself out as an "as heard from," thus taking all the credit. It is also much easier to write when you have someone to "bounce" with. This is someone to sit in a room with and exchange ideas. It is good if the last name of the person you choose to bounce with is Salinger. I know a certain early-twentieth-century French writer, whose initials were M.P., who could have used a good bounce person. If he had, his title might have been the more correct "Remembering Past Things" instead of the clumsy one he used. The other trick I use when I have a momentary stoppage is virtually foolproof, and I'm happy to pass it along. Go to an already published novel and find a sentence you absolutely adore. Copy it down in your manuscript. Usually that sentence will lead you naturally to another sentence; pretty soon your own ideas will start to flow. If they don't, copy down the next sentence. You can safely use up to three sentences of someone else's work--unless they're friends; then you can use two. The odds of being found out are very slim, and even if you are, there's no jail time.

Creating Memorable Characters

Nothing will make your writing soar more than a memorable character. If there is a memorable character, the reader will keep going back to the book, picking it up, turning it over in his hands, hefting it, and tossing it into the air. Here is an example of the jazzy uplift that vivid characters can offer:

Some guys were standing around when in came this guy.

    You are now on your way to creating a memorable character. You have set him up as being a guy, and with that come all the reader's ideas of what a guy is. Soon you will liven your character by using an adjective:

But this guy was no ordinary guy, he was a red guy.

    This character, the red guy, has now popped into the reader's imagination. He is a full-blown person, with hopes and dreams, just like the reader. Especially if the reader is a red guy. Now you might want to give the character a trait. You can inform the reader of the character trait in one of two ways. First, simply say what that trait is--for example, "but this red guy was different from most red guys, this red guy liked frappes." The other is rooted in action--have the red guy walk up to a bar and order a frappe, as in:

"What'll you have, red guy?"
"I'll have a frappe."

    Once you have mastered these two concepts, vivid character writing combined with adjectives, you are on your way to becoming the next Shakespeare's brother. And don't forget to copyright any ideas you have that might be original. You don't want to be caught standing by helplessly while your familiar "red guy" steps up to a bar in a frappe commercial.

Writing Dialogue

Many very fine writers are intimidated when they have to write the way people really talk. Actually it's quite easy. Simply lower your IQ by fifty and start typing!

Subject Matter

Because topics are in such short supply, I have provided a few for writers who may be suffering in the darker climes. File some of these away, and look through them during the suicidal winter months:

    "Naked Belligerent Panties": This is a good sexy title with a lot of promise.

    How about a diet book that suggests your free radicals don't enter ketosis unless your insulin levels have been carbo-charged?

    Something about how waves at the beach just keep coming and coming and how amazing it is (I smell a bestseller here).

    "Visions of Melancholy from a Fast-Moving Train": Some foreign writer is right now rushing to his keyboard, ready to pound on it like Horowitz. However, this title is a phony string of words with no meaning and would send your poor book to the "Artsy" section of Barnes and Noble, where--guess what--it would languish, be remaindered, and die.

A Word to Avoid

"Dagnabbit" will never get you anywhere with the Booker Prize people. Lose it.

Getting Published

I have two observations about publishers:

1. Nowadays, they can be either male or female.
2. They love to be referred to by the appropriate pronoun. If your publisher is male, refer to him as "he." If your publisher is female, "she" is considered more correct. Once you have established a rapport, "Babe" is also acceptable for either sex.

    Once you have determined your pronoun usage, you are ready to "schmooze" your publisher. Let's say your favorite author is Dante. Call Dante's publisher and say you'd like to invite them both to lunch. If the assistant says something like "But Dante's dead," be sympathetic and say, "Please accept my condolences." Once at lunch, remember never to be moody. Publishers like up, happy writers, although it's impressive to suddenly sweep your arm slowly across the lunch table, dumping all the plates and food onto the floor, while shouting "Sic Semper Tyrannis!"

A Demonstration of Actual Writing

It's easy to talk about writing and even easier to do it. Watch:

Call me Ishmael. It was cold, very cold, here in the mountain town of Kilimanjaroville.[C] I could hear a bell. It was tolling. I knew exactly for who it was tolling, too. It was tolling for me, Ishmael Twist,[C] a red guy who likes frappe. [Author's note: I am now stuck. I walk over to a rose and look into its heart.] That's right, Ishmael Twist.[R]

    Finally, I can't overstress the importance of having a powerful closing sentence.

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Sort by: Showing all of 14 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2012

    usually i like steve martin's stuff a lot but was very disappoin

    usually i like steve martin's stuff a lot but was very disappointed when i listened to this book particularly since it had gotten such a high rating.. I did not think that it was that funny. I was in a hurry and i did not realize that they had the first two chapters here. big mistake.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 13, 2002

    Pure Drivel is Purely Hilarious!

    Okay, I'm sure you all are thinking... What is this book about?? Is this another lame stand-up book written by a comedian whose star shined brightest five years ago? No! Well, not really. This book is simply exactly what the title says, 'pure drivel.' You think, in reading some of the chapters, 'Oh now I see what the point of this book is...' But the great thing is, there IS no point! It's simply a book to sit back to in the dusky afternoon with a cool drink and read, simply to get a much needed lazy laugh. Even just skimming the titles of the chapters you will be forced into a gentle chuckle with names such as, 'Mars Probe Finds Kittens,' 'Times Roman Font Announces Shortage of Periods,' and 'Michael Jackson's Old Face.' I highly, and with a delightful smirk, recommend this book for anyone looking for a cheap laugh and a quirky anecdote. This book doesn't fall short of any expectations, it lands right on target with a charming mix of classic Martin wit and pure-as-the-morning-snow drivel.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 1999

    Steve Martin has struck again!

    This is the funniest book i have ever read. I would be reading this book in the middle of class and all of a sudden i would be laughing really hard! if you like steven martin you will like this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 20, 2009

    Classic Steven Martin

    Exactly as the title suggests this book is pure drivel; but drivel that will give you a good smirk or an out-right snort-giggle even on your worst day when you have declared to the rest of the world that you will never smile again. Only Steve Martin could get away with writing this and making money on it - Bravo, Steve!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 30, 2007

    pure shnivel

    Great stuff that'll get a laugh even out of the painfully serious. The 50-year-old Lolita even thinks it's funny. A few quotes. 'But this guy was no ordinary guy, he was a red guy.' 'Think what you think, and stultify what you perambulate.' '48. Windows for Dummies. 49. Windows for Idiots. 50. Windows for the Subhuman.' This is hilarious stuff that just about everyone will get a kick out of...er, this?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2004

    Pure Martin

    'Pure Drivel,' in my estimation, is not as strong as Martin's earlier collection of short stories, 'Cruel Shoes.' Still, it's pure Martin, is packed with amusing moments and shouldn't be missed by anyone who appreciates his humor. Personal favorites include 'The 100 Greatest Books Ever Read,' 'Lolita at 50,' 'Closure' and 'A Word from the Words.'

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 14, 2004

    Purely funny

    Steve Martin is hilarious, and this book is a must!.....well, not MUST must, but definately a must read, but......just buy it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2001

    If his name wasn't Steve Martin...

    The title is misleading. It should be 'Mostly Pure Drivel.' Steve Martin starts off strong. The first half-dozen or so pieces are laugh-out-loud brilliant. Then, as though he had run out of ideas but had a publication deadline to meet, he slides into humor so forced and abstract as to be not only unfunny but incomprehensible. If most of these pieces first appeared in The New Yorker, I am disappointed at the magazine's lowering its standards. I suspect that had the material been written by an unknown, someone other than Steve Martin, it might have been returned by publishers with letters of encouragement.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 25, 2000

    FUNNIEST BOOK EVER

    every story in this book made me laugh out loud. I've never read any book quite as funny as this. I think everyone should read it

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    Posted January 13, 2011

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    Posted January 13, 2011

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    Posted September 26, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 9, 2008

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