Thursday, April 9, 2015

Book Review: A Fistful of Fig Newtons

Title: A Fistful of Fig Newtons
Author: Jean Shepherd
Date: 1981
Publisher: Doubleday
ISBN: 0-385-17503-5
Length: 265 pages including line drawings by the author
Quote: “I sensed that somehow I was in the spiritual heart of New Jersey.”
Quick refresher course for those who don’t remember: Jean Shepherd was an actor, mostly a radio actor, before he started publishing comic fiction. Shel Silverstein claimed him as a friend. Jerry Seinfeld is one of his better known living admirers. He wrote several collections of funny stories.

Much of the comic effect in these short stories is situational. Even if you can pick out one line as being “funny,” as with the example above, it’s building up to a punch image rather than a punch line. The rant about New Jersey moves from a road-rage scene to a confession of “New Jersey Nostalgia.” The title story begins with an eating contest followed by a chocolate-laxative-popping contest. There are also summer camp stories and Army stories.
This collection is recommended to those who like male-oriented, but not (usually) obscene, comedy. I have to admit that it left me completely cold, but a lot of people have loved this book. The tastefulness level is lower than I'd prefer, higher than many things at which kids laugh these days; parental discretion must be advised. My guess is that the early twentieth century setting and grown-up vocabulary would alienate most kids too young to have laughed at raunchier jokes, anyway.

A Fistful of Fig Newtons is not a Fair Trade Book, and actually I've sold the copy I physically owned anyway, so go ahead and buy it cheaper from some other web site if you want to. To buy it here, send $5 for the book + $5 for shipping to yet, buy one or more Fair Trade Books and add this one to the package, and pay only one $5 for shipping the whole box.

(What are Fair Trade Books and why does this site feature such old ones? Fair Trade Books are secondhand books by living authors, to whom we send 10% of the total price of each book sold here. This web site has discussed a lot of old books because I've written reviews of books I've displayed for sale in real-world local markets. If you'd like to propose newer books for this web site to discuss, either as Fair Trade Books or as new books, e-mail suggestions to salolianigodagewi.)