A Controversy Over What?
Not As Shocking As It Wants To Be
And there's the biggest critique of Why We Suck: it's not nearly as shocking or outrageous as Leary would like it to be. He even puts a disclaimer at the start, warning readers that he's a comedian and he's going to be pushing their buttons. Perhaps I'm just too desensitized after years of listening to stand-up, but there's only one thing in the book that came as a shock to me: Denis Leary loves Oprah Winfrey. He's not being ironic or subversive. There's an entire chapter devoted to his love and respect of Oprah. I don't know if anyone saw that coming.
As for the rest of the book, it's a lot of standard angry-comic stuff. Americans are too fat. Americans are too soft and sensitive. Men and women are different. The Catholic Church has some explaining to do. Once you get a handle on Leary's approach, it's pretty easy to anticipate what he's going to say on each subject. The book's shock factor is predictable.
The best parts of Why We Suck are when Leary gets personal, talking about his own very Irish Catholic upbringing and how things were in his house growing up. There's humor to be mined from that kind of truth -- more than any "outrageous" position Leary tries to take on the subjects he tackles.
There is, however, one very funny chapter on why it's better to own dogs than cats. I'm sure it's my own bias showing, but Leary does make some pretty compelling arguments. I'm just saying.
Better From the Man Himself
Leary is a smart and literate guy (he is, after all, a doctor), and those traits shine through in his writing. He is, actually, hyper-verbose; the book reads pretty much exactly like one of the signature rapid-fire rants that made him famous back in the early 1990s. In fact, the book would probably work much better in audio form; try as Leary might to write and punctuate so the reader hears his style in his or her head, it's hard to make that work. The material cries out for Leary to deliver it.
- Release Date: November 18, 2008
- Publisher: Viking Adult
- 320 pages