Nobody Better, Better Than Nobody (Magill Book Reviews)
Ian Frazier is a typical NEW YORKER writer, so convinced of his own drollery that he often sees no need to exercise it. The first three--and earliest written--essays in this book keep promising a payoff, either comic or insightful, that is simply never delivered. Instead, Frazier presents mundane, personalized accounts of a town in Kansas celebrating the one hundredth anniversary of a local Indian massacre, an expert fly fisherman who ran a tackle shop in midtown Manhattan for many years, and syndicated household-hints columnist Heloise, both the original, a military wife, and the daughter, an upscale Texan who has written the column since her mother’s death. All are top-heavy with accounts of the writer’s automobile journeys and descriptions of nondescript motel rooms, and burdened by Frazier’s annoying penchant for page-long lists of unenlightening details.
The last two, most recent essays, however, are small gems of perceptive observation. “Bear News” is a witty, informative, and richly anecdotal account of the tenuous and controversial relationship between men and bears in the vicinity of Montana’s Glacier National Park. “Komar and Melamid” is a hilarious and touching profile of the two expatriate Soviet satirical artists. Their own fractured-English accounts of maintaining creative integrity in both the Soviet Union and the capitalist West are simultaneously appalling and inspiring.
Overall, the book reveals a definite...
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Nobody Better, Better than Nobody (Magill's Literary Annual 1988)
Ian Frazier is a young writer of humorous and entertaining articles for The New Yorker, where the five essays collected here first appeared. Born in Cleveland, Frazier was graduated from Harvard University in 1973; at Harvard he was a writer on The Harvard Lampoon, the students’ famous humor magazine. Almost all Frazier’s professional career has been spent at The New Yorker. His first book, Dating Your Mom (1986), is a collection of satirical pieces also from that magazine; they display a biting wit unlike the gentle humor found in his second book.
Frazier’s background plays an important role in his writings. He demonstrates the unbounded inquisitiveness of a young man who came of age in the 1960’s. He also blends, in unusual imagery and unique metaphors, his urban and his rural experiences. His are the views of a modern city dweller who also deeply appreciates time spent in the wilderness. Frazier is always predominantly a member of his generation, one who lives comfortably with rock music and fast food and who can relate well to most living creatures.
Foremost in all Frazier’s essays is his fine use of detail. Every place he visits he renders exactly by geographical location, population, local terrain, and cultural features; he delights in telling his reader of the history of places, how they have changed over the years, and their current conditions (often both spiritual and physical). Detail...
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1988)
Booklist. LXXXIII, April 15, 1987, p. 1245.
Chicago Tribune. July 5, 1987, XIV, p. 3.
Kirkus Reviews. LV, April 1, 1987, p. 530.
Library Journal. CXII, June 15, 1987, p. 70.
The New York Times. April 16, 1987, p. 19.
The New York Times Book Review. XCII, May 3, 1987, p. 9.
Publishers Weekly. CCXXXI, March 20, 1987, p. 58.
Time. CXXIX, May 25, 1987, p. 67.
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