Books by comedians are even more divisive than albums or stand-up specials. Not only are they typically more dense and packed with content (by necessity), but they also require such a specific distillation of a comic's voice that it's nearly impossible to attract a new audience. It's much harder to win over a non-fan with a book than it is with an album or DVD; usually, they end up preaching to the converted.
Such is the case with I Drink for a Reason, the first book by comedian and Mr. Show star David Cross. As a big fan of Cross' comedy, I could hear and enjoy his voice on every page. That also helped me overlook some of the book's shortcomings which, I'm sorry to say, there are many. Fans are likely to enjoy I Drink for a Reason, but there's little chance anyone unfamiliar with Cross will be turned on to his comedy from reading it. That's just the way these books work sometimes.
I Drink for a Reason is broken up into dozens of essays, short fiction stories, observational pieces and lists, all of which explore America as Cross sees it. From FOX News ("Bill O'Reilly Fantasy") to the pretentiousness of Pitchfork.com ("Top 10 CDs to Listen to While Listening to Other CDs") to questions of his own patriotism ("I Hate America!, or I Hate America?"), Cross can be downright scathing in his critique of politics, media and society. He can also be very, very repetitive; multiple pieces on religion (Cross is an atheist) and the stupidity of the American people hammer the same points home in a none-too-subtle way. That's part of what I've always liked about Cross -- he's blunt and outspoken and I often happen to agree with him -- but at times the book lapses into a kind of preachy whine. It helps matters a great deal that he's a great writer with a real gift for manipulating language (lines like "The Fourteen Twelves You Will Six in Limbo" still make me laugh to think about), and his voice translates better to the written word than I imagine most other comedians would.
Cross doesn't seem to have much of a sense of humor about himself, either, which is odd for someone so funny. An entire chapter is devoted to shouting down a blogger who wrote a nasty (and, Cross contends, largely inaccurate) review of one of his shows. More space is spent on Cross explaining that he's not necessarily self-righteous or superior (which he is often accused of being), or, if he is, why he's right to be so. Though never obnoxious self-important or congratulatory, you still start to wish Cross would lighten up when it comes to his critics. Perpetuating the argument only fuels the fire further.
Still, I Drink for a Reason is a lightning-quick read, and when Cross is on fire there are few better social critics. It's too bad that about a third of the book is reprinted from other sources (though we do get his excellent "Open Letter to Larry the Cable Guy," a well-put indictment on just what's disingenuous with that particular comedian and much of the popular Blue Collar Comedy movement). Fans of Cross are likely to enjoy huge sections of the book. Everyone else might be better served reading something else. This book will only upset you.
- Release Date: 9/1/09
- Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
- 256 pages