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Cruel Shoes

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  1,960 ratings  ·  156 reviews
With Cruel Shoes, Steve Martin proves that his humor more than translates to the written page; it excels there. Since he has always written his own material, books are a natural medium for Steve's comic genius. And his extravagant wit shines brightly indeed in this rollicking collection of short fabulous pieces.
Paperback, 128 pages
Published 1980 by Warner Books (NY) (first published 1977)
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At work I have the task of reviewing books and then writing short, pithy reviews that normally say nothing more than what a book is about or why I liked or disliked it. The parameters of my reviews are tight; limited in such a way that I never get to say what I really want to express because of fears something might be said that offends a patron. I understand; I really do. But when did we get so cloistered in our thinking? When did it become wrong to review a book in a manner that truly reflects ...more
some folks reviewing this, seem to not get this book at all.

unfortunately, steve martin's knack for making some pretty droll movies the past 15-20 years makes it pretty difficult for a reader today to read this without already expecting something else entirely.

i haven't gone back to this book in years, but as a teenager, and even into my twenties, i would come back to this book again and again and it always slayed me.

this is quite simply absurdist humor of the highest order. some of it is mor
Steve Martin's first book, the long-out-of-print "Cruel Shoes" from 1979, reads today as something of a cross between the more absurd parts of his comedy albums from the same era (some jokes from those records are repeated almost verbatim here) and his later Shouts and Murmurs columns from The New Yorker, collected in his 1998 book "Pure Drivel."

This book isn't as consistently funny as that one -- and neither one is nearly as brilliant as his 1977 album "Let's Get Small," perhaps the funniest li
Ben Loory
i remember finding this book in a friend's house in 1979. i was 8 and it was very confusing. it was much much better this time around. the book reminds me of woody allen's early stories, only more absurdist and experimental. not all the pieces really work, but even when they don't, they sparkle. my favorites were "demolition of the cathedral at chartres" (which is actually kind of heartbreaking), "the bohemians" (which is just genius), "dynamite king," "how to fold soup," and "the day the dopes ...more
Thom Foolery
My wife warned me away from this book. "It isn't funny," she said, after briefly perusing it. I had purchased it for her at the library bookstore because I know she is a Steve Martin fan, and so to hear her say it wasn't funny was pretty significant. Of course, when my wife throws down that sort of gauntlet I am compelled to rise to the challenge, and so I decided to read this slim volume, if only to prove to her that it was funny and that she just didn't get it. As is usual in such cases, she w ...more
Colleen Venable
What a letdown. I was so giddy to find this book in a bookstore, a crumpled, coffee stained original edition from the 70's, obviously well-worn and loved. Surely this must be a sign of awesomeness, and considering I have Martin's LET'S GET SMALL album memorized and PURE DRIVEL is my favorite short story collection of all time, I practically floated home from the bookstore. What I found unfortunately was a book with two good stories out of almost 30. Not only did they not make me laugh but they b ...more
This may be the fastest reading adult book I have ever read; 30 to 45 minutes is all it took to go cover to cover.
The random thoughts, half baked stories and tongue-in-cheek poems from the chaotic, maniac, and avant-garde stage performer. A memorable example is "the last thing you were thinking about." Well once you start thinking about the last thing you thought about, you begin to think of previous thoughts, and those in turn become the "last thing" you thought about. Steve also pokes fun at p
I was going to give this book 3 stars, because I remember how some of these stories/jokes were terrrrible, but 30 years later and parts of this book still haunt me so I admit he's done something impressive, and at times comically beautiful.
I found this book on my Dad's shelf and gave it a go. Quirky is the best adjective I can think of for this.

I was expecting a "Seinlanguage" type of book, a verbatim book of his stand up comedy. Instead it's little short stories about a page or two long and poems.

They are mostly kind've dumb and not that funny, but it gets 4 stars because a handful of them are genius, just brilliant.
My favorite is a Gift of the Magi parody.

This is a very quick read - I got through it in about half an hour.
I borrowed this book several times from the library whilst in high school, and memorized a few of the poems, even. Steve Martin is my hero.

O pointy birds, o pointy pointy, anoint my head, anointy nointy!

It's just typical (seventies) Steve Martin. Dry and absurd.
I felt I needed to put this book somewhere on my list. It was the first gift I ever gave to my husband. He would, like, talk about this book all the time, and then I found it at The Crow used bookstore in Vermont, and became his Christmas gift.
Possibly one of the great classics of English literature. These are some of the most hilarious short pieces written in the second half of the twentieth century. Hyperbolic? Ante up with something better.
Cruel Shoes is no joke. Steve Martin is a known funny man, especially when this quick read hit the scene. In the late 1970s, everybody knew who he was thanks to the help of SNL and his critically acclaimed show. But, this ditty is classic Martin, more wit and nonsense then jokes. Only one of these had me literally laughing out loud, the profoundly silly "Society in Aspen". But like his act, the pieces here have little meaning and instead cleverly find a way to mesh the most unrelated things you ...more
CaptKirk42 Classic Whovian
"When I woke up that morning, it didn't take me long to realize there were dogs in my nose."

Cruel Shoes by Steve Martin. Before becoming a big box office movie star Steve Martin rose to the top of the stand-up comic ranks. He was a frequent guest host for the original cast Saturday Night Live, often he would be the first host of a new season, which is why some people mistakenly think he was the first to ever host SNL. That honor my friends goes to George Carlin. Anyway it was during this time (l
I will take my love of Steve Martin's early comedic works to my grave, but even a life-longer like me felt challenged by the utterly bizarre Cruel Shoes. It's a slim collection of very short musings, stories, and poetry with no apparent connection between any of them other than sheer absurdity. I'm not familiar with everything Steve Martin did on stage as a stand-up comic, but I love his albums from that era, and I'm pretty sure none of the stuff in this book appears on either one of those recor ...more
Way back when I was a high school sophomore, my English teacher read selections from Cruel Shoes to our class. Among the selections was the famous "Folding Soup" story. When it was over, a classmate of mine leaned over and said to me that he could imagine me folding soup in the way Martin describes. I'm not sure exactly what he meant, but I've always liked that memory.

So now, lo these many years later, I finally got around the reading the book in its entirety. It doesn't disappoint.

These very s
Back before he was a more serious comedian, Steve Martin was the king of the absurd. He would work hard to be serious about a subject, then set you up for the funniest thing possible out of that situation.

"My cat ran up my credit cards...and you can't return used pet toys, they have spittle on them!" is a perfect example of this. (I may have the exact routine quote wrong, but you get the idea.) If that's funny to you, then you'll howl like I did at this short, pithy collection of shorts that wor
I keep feeling liked I missed something the entire book. I'm a big fan of his humor. I grew up watching him from my childhood, but this book was such a stretch. Just random thoughts. Someone tell me I missed the joke and explain it to me...
A quick read this evening. A mixed bag, but I laughed pretty much the whole way. From bland suburban "bohemians" to dogs with serious literary taste to the infamous masochistic "cruel shoes," Martin plays with everyday cliches and sets up expectations that he dashes with complete absurdism. This is my kind of humor.

The whole book is posted on an online forum (rife with typos, alas), at:
I was pretty much head-over-heals for Steve Martin when I was a kid. I loved this book, but reading it now just doesn't seem as funny as it was back then (it's still funny though). I started thinking about it: how many people can you name that are authors, comedians, musicians, and actors ALL IN ONE? This is one talented guy - worthy of being my childhood hero. I'm glad I held on to this book.
Matthew Conroy
An important book for me. I can faintly remember bringing a copy to school in 8th grade (back in 1979 or 1980), enjoying it with my chums, and trying to get the substitute math teacher to read it to the class (I can't remember whether he did or not). I love this book. I need absurdity: it massages my brain in such a good way, and this book has provided many a fine massage.

I was a huge Steve Martin fan. Saw him in high school at the hialai stadium in Hartford(anyone from Connecticut knows how long ago that was) My girlfriend at the time(now my wife, Terry) made me the bunny ears, I made her the arrow through the head. He was a wild and crazy guy. You need anymore reason why I still own this very ame book I bought in High School
This is one of the funniest books ever written. It's akin to a stand-up act on paper, a series of short prose pieces that are remarkably absurdist. The photos of Martin throughout getting increasingly intoxicated while typing are the perfect leavening for installments like "How to Fold Soup" and "What to Say When the Ducks Show Up."
Jason M.
There is some really, really funny stuff in here, but a few of the pieces are just not developed quite enough, so that they seem only beginnings of good ideas. Martin's great (great), but he's not yet at the height of his powers here, and why did he make those damn "Cheaper by the Dozen" and "Pink Panther" movies? Jesus H!
These short stories are smart and silly; just what you would expect from Steve Martin, the comedian. (As opposed to what? Steve Martin, the massage therapist?) Cruel Shoes is not as good as Pure Drivel, his other collection of short stories, but I'd still recommend it and I'd still marry Steve, you know, if it ever came up.
I wish that this book was still in print. I have wished many times to reccommend it to someone or other in particular who I believe has sensibilities that align with appreciation of these tales. They are short, pithy, droll, absurd. I love them. I laugh out loud. I wish I could share more.
This is one of the best collections of short humor I've ever read. This is Steve Martin at his strangest, the Steve Martin who did balloon animals of venereal disease during his stand-up act. As with any collection, some stories are funnier than others, but it's definitely worth a read.
Mrs. Musrum's Mum Keleher
Why I bought this in hardback when I was fifteen, I don't remember. It must have been because the guy singing "King Tut" on SNL was so funny. It didn't prepare me at all for this book, which is very dark and odd, and somewhat funny. But I still remember the title story decades later.
I felt like every story in this book could have been in an issue of McSweeney's. So like McSweeney's, some stories were a hit... and others were a miss. I am still incredibly happy that I was able to score this out of print book at the Eugene library book sale.
I found this book at the local library several years ago, when I was a senior in high school. The result? Hours and hours spent trying to write a story as funny as Martin's -- during class. I do, however, forgive him for making me end school on a bad note
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Stephen Glenn "Steve" Martin is an American actor, comedian, writer, playwright, producer, musician, and composer. He was raised in Southern California in a Baptist family, where his early influences were working at Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm and working magic and comedy acts at these and other smaller venues in the area. His ascent to fame picked up when he became a writer for the Smothers ...more
More about Steve Martin...
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