A book I should have read BEFORE going to Great Britain.
Most Underrated Books of 2009

He's trying, but I'm never going to love...

...any of his other books as much as I loved his novel, I'll Take It.

Shudder I'm speaking of writer and humorist Paul Rudnick, who is actually better known as a playwright and the writer of the screenplays for the movies In & Out and Sister Act (although he declines any credit, or censure, for the latter, as that screenplay passed through many hands after his). He recently came out with the collection I Shudder: And Other Reactions to Life, Death, and New Jersey, which is a collection of essays and a longer short story (broken up into separate chapters) called "I Shudder."

The essays are fun, as Rudnick is indeed a hilarious Jewish boy from Jersey, who dishes at length on his early scary apartments in New York, working with some rather large personalities, surviving the meat grinder that is the Los Angeles film industry, and about his mother and aunts (forceful personalities all). You have to love a man who starts an essay collection with a piece about his family, and a funny piece at that:

"My first apartment in New York was a fifth-floor Walk-up on Charles Street in the West Village. On the first Saturday after I'd moved in, I got a visit from my mother and her sisters, my Aunt Hilda and my Aunt Lil. All of these women were stylishly dressed, incling leather handbags and silk scarves, and they all wore those oversized eyeglass frames which are known as 'Tootsie' glasses, because Dustin Hoffman wore them when he was in drag. Actually, Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie could have been a fourth sister, because he wore such nice wool challis skirts and exhibited a proud, feminist outlook." (p. 1.)

If you like David Sedaris and David Rakoff and/or reading about New York and the theatah, this will be the book for you. But if you'd prefer to read something that is a lot like this but is instead a fabulous novel, then I would suggest sticking with I'll Take It, which is one of my favorites of all time, and is clearly autobiographical. That novel features a young Bohemian New York type named Joe, who gets roped into driving his mother and aunts through New England one autumn to watch the leaves change, and how he learns about the VERY unexpected bad habit the entire family shares. It's a good time--consider it for a fun, light read around the holidays.