gcbd1wsi.pngA few weeks back, somebody commenting on one of the posts in my main journal strongly encouraged my reading some George Carlin. Since I've been "coached" to consider the serendipitous for the job search and much associated with it, I decided to take up the suggestion and order in three of Carlin's books. All I can say after reading Brain Droppings is that I'm glad i got them from Amazon's new/used vendors.

As regular readers of this space know, I've been spending a lot of time pumping my brain full of Intention, Positivity, Attraction and other Secret-esqe philosophies. In fact, one book (the classic The Science of Getting Rich, which I'm still quite enthusiastic about) counsels one to "not read any other philosophies" while working towards wealth. Well, this collection of Carlin's musings is just about as "anti" all that as is humanly possible. An earlier edition of myself would have found that quite amusing (heck, there's a section in here, "Rules To Live By", which almost point-for-point goes down the list of things that "the Secret people" focus on, and presents a cynical and extremely negative version of them) in its complete "dark mirroring" of the "fluff bunny" movement. How'd he know? This book came out in 1997, so was penned nearly a decade before Byrne's book (you don't suppose she read this and was inspired to counter it?).

Frankly, I was unprepared for this to be any sort of a "challenging read", expecting to just blow through it and the others in a spare few hours. Instead, it was a grind, and surprisingly unfunny. While Carlin's work is certainly cerebral, picking apart language, looking at unacknowledged aspects of society, etc., I think it loses a lot when distilled down to simple text. Much of the punch to Carlin's humor is in the verbal delivery, and he's most effective when he can "mug along" with the jokes. Without the audio and video, the material here is at best "wry", but frequently giving the impression of "trying too hard" to get to some semblance of a punch line. I probably chuckled 2-3 times over the entire 258-page book (contrast that to the recent Kinky Friedman book which had me LOL'ing every few pages).

The tone here, separate from Carlin's stagecraft, is uniformly bitter, hostile, non-constructively confrontational, fatalistic, and mean-spirited. Reading through the book was akin to having to take a long Greyhound bus ride stuck in a seat next to the most cantankerous, negative, and opinionated person you know. In the introduction to his second book, Carlin notes that this one did better than he'd anticipated. I'm surprised as well ... but it must have been as a new product by a cultural icon rather than on the strength of what's on the page. I used to joke that my poetry collections were written for those "too happy" people out there, Brain Droppings comes across as being intended as a "cure" for those suffering from a surfeit of positivity. Needless to say, I'm very confused as to WHY the person (not a regular commentator in my journal) suggested that I read George Carlin's books ... I'm beginning to suspect that it was intended to sabotage whatever progress I've made "towards the light"!

As one might expect from the above, I am not recommending this, unless one wants to have it for a "historical" or "pop cultural" perspective. If one does feel a need to get a copy, I would recommend not spending the $27.95 that Amazon wants for a new copy, but pick up a "like new" copy for 1¢ (well, $4 with the $3.99 shipping, that's what I paid) from the used vendors!

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Views: 4

Comment by Tony Jenkins on November 23, 2009 at 11:20am
Hm, I'd had some wonder about this figure and his books upon discovering his stand up comedy and philosophy he seemed to espouse on stage. Quite far from his lovable characters portrayed on film, let me tell you. Almost like Bob Sagat in a way. Perhaps Mr. Carlin simply had a lot of anger in that time of his life. It's hard telling. Thanks for the review though Brendan. It may have saved me money in the case I'd have finally remembered to search out his books. Happy reading!
Comment by Rev.Theresa Helton (Moonraven) on November 23, 2009 at 5:18pm
Perhaps Mr. Carlin was aware of the nature of the book's negativity and rightly named it 'Brain Droppings'. A suitable name for a purging.

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