Law Religion Culture Review

Exploring the intersections of law, religion and culture. Copyright by Richard J. Radcliffe. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Book Review: Last Words (2009) by George Carlin with Tony Hendra.

I confess I don't like the old George Carlin.

By this, I don't mean the elder version. I mean the younger one.

The older George didn't like the the younger one either.

This posthumously published book, Last Words, explains why. Carlin writes about how he found his voice later in life. He found his voice only after he dug deeply, while dispensing with artifices that characterized his earlier career filled with synthetic television show appearances, "micro-world" topics, such as toe nails and peas, and throwaway characters (leading to some self-loathing).

Carlin's later material (especially his HBO specials from about the late 1990s forward) was beyond challenging, bracing, acerbic, dark, angry and at times idiosyncratically insightful. On top of the penetrating substance, Carlin's mastery of the English language, his delivery, and presentation set the bar for later comics.

More informational than funny, Carlin's book reveals much about his Irish-Catholic upbringing in New York City (with, as he says, "no father and half a mother"), his surprising time in the Air Force, his career arc, and most intimately, his marriages (he was widowed from his first wife and married to his second for almost 10 years when he died on June 22, 2008) and personal failings and insecurities.

Recommended to Carlin fans and to satirists/comics wanting to learn from the best how it is done.

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