Monday, July 20, 2009

Me of Little Faith

by Lewis Black

My name is Liz, and I have a problem: I try to read too many books at once.

The other day, at work, I was putting away some of our new arrivals and stumbled across Lewis Black's second book "Me of Little Faith." I am a huge Lewis Black fan - I've seen him perform live twice, I read his book "Nothing's Sacred", I even met him when he was in Boston working for The Daily Show's Indecision 2004 - so I had to pick it up. And I enjoyed this book tremendously. Maybe even more than his first.

I began reading his book while I was at work (it was a slow day), and I quickly found that to be a bad idea. It is mildly embarrassing to be literally laughing out loud while in a nearly silent public library, and usually calls for explanation. I actually snorted. I couldn't control myself. That's when I decided I had to read this book in private. His chapter "notes from the land of dreidles and hamantaschen" put me over the top. It's hilarious. I love his comparisons between Christmas and Chanukah (or "Hanuuukaaah" or "Cha-Noo-Kah"). This chapter (among others) actually made me wish I were Jewish so I could have a deeper appreciation for his jokes (and maybe feel slightly less guilty for laughing so hard).

There is so much about this book that I love. His writing is great. He is unapologetic and intelligent, as well as surprisingly open-minded. The key, when it comes to religion, which Black puts so perfectly, is a necessary level of respect: "I may not believe, but I believe if you are in the presence of believers, you should show a little respect for their beliefs." And that is one of the most prominent problems when it comes to talking about religion. Everyone is entitled to their opinions; that doesn't negate respect. Plus, if you respect other's beliefs, it's ok to voice your opinions/jokes/rants, because, below the surface, you still respect those who believe.

I also learned a lot from this book. For one, the origin of ridiculous. I can't believe people can be so committed to such a ridiculous story. (Granted, Catholicism has some ridiculous beginnings and stories, as well as a LONG list of missteps, but it's been around longer and feels way more legit than Joseph Smith.) And televangelists are a breed all their own. The hate they spew in the name of God is appalling. Again, I can't understand how people can honestly buy into what they say. But I'll stop here.

His ranting about athletes constantly thanking God for their victories, is spot on. As if God wouldn't have anything more important to deal with than helping some rapist win his basketball game.

Another thing I love about the book is the preface - or the warning. I do think people tend to take religion far too seriously, and it is important to look at it in a different light, at least every once and a while. But the last paragraph is a nice, and fitting, touch:
"So if religion has taken over your life and you don't want to think about it or laugh about it because it will upset you, DON'T READ THE GODDAMN BOOK.

My one complaint, is that I do not like the play included in the book. I didn't like the book Black included in his first book either. Maybe I just don't care of his plays in general. His stand-up and his books are outstanding. So, I'm actually surprised I don't care for his plays. Go figure.

"Me of Little Faith" is a truly stand-out book. It's wickedly hilarious, witty, intelligent, and makes for good comic release. The best thing about the book is the anecdotes. Black has had some truly unique and compelling experiences, and is a great storyteller. He has seen so much and has gone out of his way to see other people's lives and points of view; it's impressive and admirable.

I highly recommend reading this book, unless of course, you are a person who the preface/warning was designed to discourage.

And so, I'll leave you with a few gems:
"Death is the abiding mystery that is the root of all religions, except Scientology, which doesn't count because I refuse to to consider seriously anything that Tom Cruise believes in."

"How does someone have a bar mitzvah for a dog and not end up committed?"

And my personal favorite:
"Each of us is full of shit in our own special way. We are all shitty little snowflakes dancing in the universe."

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