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Gonzo's Summer Reading List: A George Carlin Trifecta

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This week's installment of the summer reading list is going to take a bit of a departure from Viking land, in part because I'm waiting for an order to come in from Amazon.com with some more reading materials in it, and partially because I feel the need to make up for something that I missed a little while back.

I'm sure that you all heard about the passing of George Carlin, a man that might have been the finest stand-up comedian of all time.  There are very few people that could argue that they can sit upon that throne, although that sort of thing is subjective, based on one's personal tastes.  Though you might have been offended by the way he got his points across, everyone can pretty much agree that nobody expressed his thoughts on stage quite the way that George Carlin did.

Many people are quite familiar with the numerous specials that Carlin did for HBO, and the myriad of audio CDs of his stand-up routines.  However, Carlin's spirit is very well encapsulated in the three books that he wrote during his lifetime.

Carlin's first tome, which is now a decade old, is called Brain Droppings.  This one, even though it is the earliest, might be my personal favorite, as it contains what amounts to transcripts of some of Carlin's more famous stand-up routines, particularly The Difference Between Baseball and Football and the amazing A Place For My Stuff.  But it's not all a re-hash of past stand-up routines. . .not by any stretch.  There's a lot of outstanding original material from Mr. Carlin in the book as well.  It's also filled in a couple of places with pages of "Short Takes," which are pretty much random thoughts and observations that George Carlin had made over the years.

Brain Droppings checks in at just over 250 pages, but despite the length, it's a remarkably fast read.  There's no real "flow" from one chapter to the next, but that's really not a bad thing.  If you find yourself in a section of the book you don't like (which is going to be a rarity at best, if you're a Carlin fan), just flip a few pages and go to another section.  You're not going to miss anything in-between that's going to leave you wondering what Carlin is talking about.

The second book, published in 2001, is entitled Napalm and Silly Putty.  It has the "Short Takes," similar to Brain Droppings, but in Napalm and Silly Putty, Carlin seems to be getting even more cynical.  Napalm and Silly Putty is also a bit more organized than the previous effort was.  The strange thing about this book. . .and I use the word "strange" because I honestly can't come up with a better word for it. . .is the fact that some of the things that Carlin talked about in the book actually took place not too long afterwards (things like buildings and buses blowing up).

You can find some of the stuff that you can read in Napalm and Silly Putty in Carlin's stand-up album entitled You Are All Diseased, but there's still a lot of good, original stuff in this one as well.  At around 270 pages, it's slightly longer than Brain Droppings, but that just means there's more Carlin goodness inside.

Carlin's final book is the one  you see the cover from above, When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops?  The title of the book tells everyone what many Carlin fans already know. . .that there was no subject that Carlin was afraid to joke about, be it religion or politics or anything in-between.

Sadly, there are a lot of people that I've talked to that read this book and didn't like it nearly as much as his previous two efforts.  Many of those folks point to the fact that while Carlin has put away much of the vulgar language in this book, it seems that he's also taken away much of his cynicism and replaced it with out-and-out anger.  I agree with that take to a certain extent, as the book does seem a bit more mean-spirited than its predecessors, but I personally enjoyed it all the same.  When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops is Carlin's longest book, checking in at just over 290 pages, and it's not the one you want to give someone that's not intimately familiar with Carlin's work.

You can find all three of Carlin's books at Amazon.com for a relatively low price, as they have been out for a while.  There's also a set you can purchase that contains all three books entitled An Orgy of George, which Amazon is currently selling for the pretty outstanding price of $16.47.  If you're only going to purchase one, then Brain Droppings would probably be my recommendation, but for that price, you can hardly go wrong getting the entire George Carlin book collection in one fell swoop.