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I Shudder: And Other Reactions to Life, Death, and New Jersey    by Paul Rudnick order for
I Shudder
by Paul Rudnick
Order:  USA  Can
Harper, 2009 (2009)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Harper

Admission ... years and years of working in books, and I had never once picked up a book of humorous essays. Yes, that means I never read the king himself, David Sedaris. I love nothing more than to zone out with a hilarious novel, but each chapter telling a different story? That would be something I had to get used to.

Let me preface this by saying that a few weeks before I read I Shudder, I watched a comedy show of Bill Cosby from the 1970s. It amazed me that Cosby could just take ordinary moments of his life and make them into genius comedic material. Cosby does a piece about chocolate cake that I think is one of the funniest bits ever in comedy.

The chapters in I Shudder alternate between comedic moments in Rudnick's life and diary entries from the fictitious character, Elyot Vionnet. Rudnick does not mince words talking about all aspects of his life. We hear his memories of writing for the movies Sister Act and First Wives' Club. He tells us about living in New York in the early 90s, when AIDS spread rapidly and people panicked over possible contagion. He writes about the death of his father from lung cancer.

While most chapters are very funny, Rudnick sometimes tries too hard to up the shock value, using the most crass words and situations possible. When he does so, this reader has a hard time seeing the real meaning behind the story. Remember ... a funny story can be as simple as chocolate cake.

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