By Stuart Nulman – Montreal Times
I first encountered American humourist Dave Barry 25 years ago at the American Booksellers Association convention (now known as Book Expo America) in Washington, D.C. Barry, whom the year before won the Pulitzer Prize for his humorous columns that appeared on a weekly basis in The Miami Herald, was at the convention to promote and sign copies of two of his latest books: the paperback edition of his collection Dave Barry’s Greatest Hits, and the hardcover edition of his soon-to-be-released take on American history, Dave Barry Slept Here.
What I noticed about Barry was his laid back manner, his easy going bantering with the large group of booksellers, publisher reps and journalists who eagerly lined up to have their few seconds of chit chat with him and get their autographed books, and the constant zingers and sarcastic (yet not maliciously sarcastic) one-liners he kept delivering at a rapid fire pace, which kept everyone laughing while they were waiting in line.
I couldn’t wait to get home to start reading both autographed copies of Barry’s books; in fact, as soon as I returned to my hotel room, I immediately started Dave Barry Slept Here. That somewhat fast, yet curmudgeonly sense of humour that I saw him project at the book signing session transcended onto the pages of his new book (which became an immediate New York Times bestseller). Over the next decade, I read Dave Barry’s new releases on a regular basis, and watched the short-lived CBS sitcom “Dave’s World”, which was based on his writings. Although the last Dave Barry book I reviewed was his 1990 bestseller Dave Barry Turns 40, it didn’t stop me from enjoying his books.
It’s been over 10 years since I last read one of his books; and when I received a review copy of his newest collection of humourous writings, You Can Date Boys When You’re Forty, I knew it was time to familiarize myself once more with what has been going on recently in Dave’s world.
Right off the bat, let me say that despite what the title suggests, this book is not solely a look at parenting and parenthood according to Dave Barry. What the book is, actually, is a collection of nine essays (which are being published for the first time) dealing with topics that Barry claims he know very little about, whether it is death, grammar or what women really want.
All that aside, the long time Dave Barry reader, or the uninitiated ones, will certainly not be disappointed with his new book. The essays are filled with plenty of rants, practical “advice”, and heaping doses of his acerbic style of humour. Personal favorites include “Sophie, Stella and the Bieber Plan”, in which Barry reluctantly accompanies his daughter Sophie and her BFF Stella to a Justin Bieber concert, in which the two girls not only fawn over Bieber in a rather fanatical way, but take that devotion to a new level by actually leaving personally addressed invitations to their bat mitzvahs on the stage, in the hope that Bieber will pick them up, and eventually attend their respective rites of passage celebrations (by the way, those who are already fed up with Bieber and his obnoxious shenanigans will enjoy reading this essay, as Barry gives his no-holds-barred view on the concert, which he describes as “brutal”, and says rather pointedly that “at times the dancing looks silly, but it serves a vital artistic function; namely, keeping you from noticing that the music [and I say this respectfully] sucks.”; then there’s his piece on manliness, which is basically a collection of how-to lists (such as how to cook a steak on the grill), which reads more like a comedy routine than a bunch of helpful advice lists; and “Seeking WiFi in the Holy Land” is a travelogue that chronicles a recent 10-day family trip Barry took to Israel, in which his wife was always in constant pursuit of the ideal souvenir/gift shop in order to add to her ever growing menorah collection, and his daughter preferring those historic sites across Israel that provided WiFi.
You Can Date Boys When You’re Forty is vintage Dave Barry. Mixing his own unique brand of insight and humour to topics that are relevant and timely, we are satisfied that Dave Barry, after more than 30 years of speaking his mind through the printed page, has not mellowed with age, yet he refuses to become an old relic.
Stuart Nulman’s “Book Banter” segment is a twice-a-month feature on “The Stuph File Program” with Peter Anthony Holder, which now has almost 150,000 listeners per week. You can either listen or download it at www.peteranthonyholder.com, Stitcher.com or subscribe to it on iTunes. Plus you can find it at www.CyberStationUSA.com, www.KDXradio.com, True Talk Radio, streaming on www.PCJMedia.com, and over the air at World FM 88.2fm in New Zealand, Media Corp in Singapore and WSTJ, St. Johnsbury, Vermont. Stuart can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.