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I Shudder

3.36  ·  Rating Details ·  605 Ratings  ·  123 Reviews

A hilariously funny, touching, and revelatory book from one of America's preeminent humorists

In his plays, his screenplays, and his writing for the "New Yorker" and "Premiere," Paul Rudnick has established himself as a comic master whose talents transcend genre. Now, in "I Shudder," he trains his wickedly perceptive eye on everything from his New Jersey family to Hollywood

ebook, 340 pages
Published (first published August 27th 2009)
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Mar 22, 2015 Lobstergirl rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Reinhold Niebuhr

I picked this up at the library because Rudnick is one of the few actually funny writers in the New Yorker's humor column. Here's a sample (not in the book) from the January 27, 2014 issue, titled New Jersey: the Quiz:

5. The slogan of New Jersey’s capital, which appears in glowing letters on one of the city’s bridges, is “Trenton Makes, the World Takes.” What were the three runners-up?

(a) “Trenton Pees, the World Sees.”

(b) “Trenton Poops, the World Scoops.”

(c) “If You Lived in Trenton, You’d Be
I don't quite know what to say about the book. I liked it, but didn't looooove it - but I'm hesitant to say that because I'm beginning to suspect that I simply don't "looooooove" any sort of memoir/collection of essays type of book, and I fear that my criticism is more one of genre than of the book itself. I chose this book partly because it's fun to make fun of New Jersey (even though they DO sell beer, wine, and liquor all in one store as opposed to Stupid Pennsylvania) and partly because I fi ...more
Blake Morgan
It's fun to hear true stories from this industry. This was an entertaining read. He's been compared to David Sedaris and I can see why. Some of my favorite parts were the diary entries of Rudnicks's fictional character Elyot Vionnet. It's very all over the place and when it ended, I felt lost. But it was a quick and easy read. Something you can pick up and put down at leisure... a vacation book!
Oct 04, 2016 Erin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some funny stories - I especially enjoyed the diary entries of "Elyot Vionnet"; great for a pick-me-up read of a collection of short stories
Jun 09, 2011 Jeruen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I should say that this is a hilarious book. It's a hybrid book, where the author mixes fiction and non-fiction in between chapters. The full title of this book is I Shudder And Other Reactions to Life, Death, and New Jersey. I didn't realize that this book would be a great read, and a comic one as well.

So I suppose it's better to talk about the author here, Paul Rudnick. Apparently, he is a playwright, a novelist, and a screenplay writer. So he has written several movies, including Sister Act an
Nov 26, 2009 Ivan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Paul Rudnick is the celebrated writer of novels, plays (Jeffrey), and screenplays (In & Out, Sister Act, Addams Family Values), I Shudder is his first collection. If you enjoy David Sedaris and Dan Savage, you’re going to love this; one of the funniest damn books I’ve ever read.
This isn’t just one of those collections of “funny stories” about my wacky family. Rudnick has had a fabulous career, he knows everyone who’s anyone, and has the supreme talent to report his observations honestly an
This book would have been ten times more enjoyable if it eliminated all of the biographical entries and read straight through the chapters subtitled "An Excerpt from the Most Deeply Intimate and Personal Diary of One Elyot Vionnet." As it is written, I Shudder ends up as an amalgamation of David Sedaris-type writing that doesn't quite hit the mark, in part because the chapters are so chronologically ill-ordered, because they are interrupted by these fictional "diary" chapters (which I actually e ...more
Two words: wildly uneven

Overall, I liked the Elliot Vionet stories; Rudnick skewers NYC arrivistes to a tee (although I could've done without the morbidity).

The segment regarding his trip to a convent in search of the girl who gave up a promising acting career to become a nun was pretty good, but I fast-forwarded through pretty much everything else show-biz related.

As someone (roughly) the same age who grew up in New Jersey, his childhood anecdotes pretty much fell flat on me. Moreover, even if
A collection of autobiographical short stories by Paul Rudnick held together with fictional diary entries by one Elyot Violett. Although I enjoyed Mr. Rudnick’s stories to a decent extent (especially the views of a couple celebrities), Elyot’s dramatized version of life in NYC was much more interesting to read. The first entry is my favorite-
He can’t help but notice a 30s-ish neighbor who is constantly on her cellphone, rudely ignoring everything going on around her. He decides to call her and
Nov 13, 2009 Judith rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author is a successful screenwriter and playwright and I really enjoyed reading the chapters in which he skewers Hollywood. (he wrote: In& Out; Adams Family Values; Sister Act) He is also downright hilarious in many parts of the book. There are other parts that are deadly dull and just plain silly, so it's hard to characterize this book. Like David Sedaris, much of his work is based on his own family and his experiences as a gay writer living in NYC. The vignettes about himself and his f ...more
Jun 04, 2010 Stuart rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Entertainers, fans of droll humor
I found this book to be just about perfect for a coast to coast flight. There was enough variety to keep me interested, a mix of journalism, memoir, and short fiction. Through it all, there were zingers every fourth page or so that made me laugh out loud.

I'm not a fan of David Sedaris; he's too mean and arch for my taste. In contrast, Rudnick is very sweet both in his portrayals of his family and in his discussions of people in and out of show biz. He doesn't have a mean bone in his body. Rudni
Feb 13, 2014 Al rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
" a season of excessive credit-heavy spending, painfully awkward get-togethers with people we never liked to begin with, and the torture of children by never giving them enough gifts to satisfy their amoral, venal natures. The only appropriate holiday tokens would be to give every member of one's family a crossbow and a head start." If you find that comment trenchant then Paul Rudnick's "I Shudder" is the book for you. Actually the observation is made by his writing alter-ego Elyot ...more
Kater Cheek
Jan 07, 2010 Kater Cheek rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't know why this book was so funny, but within four pages I was laughing out loud. Not just titters, but full-on brays of laughter. Rudnick's humor grows slowly and comes out of nowhere. Do all his friends have a knack for saying the worst possible thing, or does he just remember the stories that way? I don't know. Either way, this book made me laugh consistently and frequently, and I can always use the chuckles.

One thing I didn't like: interspaced with the memoir-type anecdotes were fictio
Jennifer Campaniolo
A funny collection of essays, although the subtitle is a little misleading. I thought he was going to talk more about NJ than he did. Being raised there, I would have loved to have read his take on the most maligned yet, ironically, the most populated state. He also did a bit of name-dropping, which I wasn't expecting. I feel like there was more talk of his life in Hollywood than anything else which got tiresome because there are already a glut of tempestuous celebrity stories out there.

But tho
Rudnick, a writer for The New Yorker, is a funny, funny man. I wholeheartedly devoured his collection of essays. I skipped his short stories--just couldn't get into the lead character, a nonsensical and idiotic man. I usually enjoy the idiotic and non-nonsensical as well as any person, but this was just annoying.

Absolutely read he book for the essays, though; he's an incredible story teller. For example, he writes about how he came to pen the screenplay for "Sister Act," the Whoopi Goldberg veh
Morninglight Mama
Jan 16, 2016 Morninglight Mama rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humor, memoir, nonfiction
Paul Rudnick cracked me up time and time again, and I wasn't surprised that the recommendation quote on the cover came from David Sedaris, who helped to pave the way for humorous memoirs like this. (And, you will be turning back to that front cover quote several chapters into the reading, causing you to once again laugh out loud. Trust me.) Mixed in with the rambling stories shared throughout the chapters are some outright bizarre 'diary entries' by a fictional character (I assume) that are seri ...more
Evanston Public  Library
Half autobiography, half bizarre work of fiction, Paul Rudnick'sI Shudder is a masterpiece of non-fiction. A rabbi in this book says, "Life is like a sandwich...the two slices of bread don't matter, it's what's in the middle that counts." While, admittedly, it was the cover with Peeps that made me pick it up, the middle was far more delicious than I expected. Almost every other chapter is a fictional character's personal diary entry, and I yearn for that to be a novel on its own. Although Rudnic ...more
Feb 15, 2014 Arwen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
People who can write can make anything interesting, and it appears people who can write comedy can make anything funny. Paul Rudnick pulls it off here. The fiction sections (which are 1/4 of the book or less, maybe?) are excellent, if rather dark, satire. The non-fiction sections read to me as much more of a cautionary tale than I think the author intended them to be, but I still enjoyed them very much. The author has a gift for the unexpected turn of phrase, especially in dialogue, that made me ...more
Jan 16, 2014 Jacquelin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyable from beginning to end. There is a nice variety of essays in this collection. Some are thought provoking, some are light hearted, some have a touch of sorrow, but all have a great slice of humor. I found myself laughing out loud more than once. I couldn't help it -- I wanted to be friends with Paul and be part of his cast of kooky characters. Interspersed with the essays is a continuing work of fiction, a story that grows as a character study of one curmudgeonly old man. Well worth the ...more
Sep 22, 2009 Steven rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humor, essays
I wasn't sure whether to file this book under fiction. I have a shelf for that since I tend to read more nonfiction. But even the fictional parts of this book rang true enough!

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, part memoir, part short story. I liked reading about Rudnick's family and the people he worked with and new during his early career. His humor is genuine, unforced -- never mean-spirited -- and I laughed out loud while reading several times. I'd love to read more stories about the fictional
“And so I continue in borderline poverty, save for my one indulgence, no, my single absolute necessity: I take cabs. Yes, on occasion, when I wish to see what people with unpleasant skin conditions are wearing, I do take the subway. I have never, I am proud to say, taken the bus, because people who take the bus have given up.” Paul Rudnick’s Elyot Vionnet

Overall, I did enjoy this book. If you want a light read about NYC, working in Hollywood, and just some entertaining fiction- pick up this book
Jan 19, 2010 Robin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh-my-gosh. Rudnick's novel, "I'll Take It," remains at the top of my list of much-loved humorous books. "I Shudder" is a mixture of essays -- about growing up in NJ, about his plays, about his screenplays, about his family-- mixed with diary entries from the fictional Elyot Vionnet. The collection is dryly funny and, when he writes seeing the AIDS quilt and the enormity of the loss it represents, heartbreaking. He's compared to David Sedaris and Augusten Burroughs; while he is well-able to offe ...more
May 20, 2011 Andy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A collection of sometimes funny essays alternating between, I think, fact and fiction. The draw of the book - the title - is misleading in that New Jersey, while shaping the author, does not play as prominent of a role as I had supposed. This is one of those books that I was not entirely interested in reading and set goals for myself - read three essays this weekend - in order to finish it, as compared to other books where I was interested in the story or liked the author's style and had to put ...more
I really enjoyed the non-fiction memoir parts of the book, and after the first one, skipped the short story part. I have enjoyed quite a few things that Rudnick has written on stage and screen - most notably The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told, and Jeffrey, and enjoyed reading about some of the backstory regarding his work, but was bored with the fiction sections - I may have enjoyed them if I had read them in a separate book, but I wasn't expecting them interspersed with the non-fiction and I thi ...more
Sep 20, 2009 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book, mainly the stories about show biz folks (the final chapter about William Ivey Long is especially charming). Elyot Vionnet did wear on me, particularly when he veered into the land of absurdity with "Mr. Christmas." But I have to say that perhaps my favorite passage in the book is Vionnet's dissertation on why cabs are superior to public transportation ("people who take the bus have given up.") Despite the fact that he disses my lovely neighborhood of Inwood, I thought this w ...more
May 28, 2011 Irene rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who live in NY or NJ
Shelves: read-in-2012
I found this book extremely funny--laughing out loud many, many times. However, I wonder if there is a certain, slightly darker humor that only those raised in New York City, New Jersey, Long Island or other Metropolitan environs can truly appreciate. I'm one of those, so I loved it--don't know if others will feel the same.

I also liked the periodic changes from autobiographical style to fiction; they were a nice change of pace.
Jan 10, 2013 Susan rated it did not like it
A partial review for a book I read only partially. I'd seen a review of I Shudder comparing it to David Sedaris's work. I think Sedaris is usually hilarious, so I checked it out.

And ... I shuddered as I read it. It contained numerous R-rated situations, and had quite a bit of profanity. And it wasn't even funny. Or interesting. I suppose someone out there would enjoy this book, but it's not me.

Aug 07, 2012 Eric rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I read Paul Rudnick, I find I have to frequently put the book down in order to compose myself before continuing to read. Never was this more true than when I read "I Shudder!" Whether regarding his books, his plays ("Jeffrey," "The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told") his New Yorker features, the columns he writes under the nom de plume Libby Gelman-Waxner, or his Hollywood screenplays ("In and Out," "Addams Family Velues") Paul Rudnick is far and away my favorite humor writer.
Jul 23, 2014 Meg rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
I thought I would like this more. There are Peeps on the cover! Yet again, a lesson to not judge a book by its cover. The best parts of the book are the chapters that are the fictional diary of Elyot Vionnet. He is convinced that he is helping others when he is usually judging others and trying to get them to conform to his opinions. The other essays are also interesting, but it was not as funny as, say, David Sedaris. All in all, not bad.
Jul 13, 2012 Morganucopia rated it it was ok
Book started out quirky, oftentimes hilarious, and then slowly degraded into a surreal, unfunny, hysterical mess. I listened to the audio version narrated by the author. His lisping, affected speaking style made me shudder, driving me slowly insane as my ears bled from the constant grating sounds. Do yourself a favour and read the bitchy, mean David Sedaris instead. While not great, his works are much better than this weird, self-indulgent junk.
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Paul M. Rudnick is an American playwright, screenwriter and novelist. His plays include I Hate Hamlet, Jeffrey, The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told, Valhalla and The New Century. He also wrote for Premiere magazine under the pseudonym Libby Gelman-Waxner. He is openly gay.
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“And so I continue in borderline poverty, save for my one indulgence, no, my single absolute necessity: I take cabs. Yes, on occasion, when I wish to see what people with unpleasant skin conditions are wearing, I do take the subway. I have never, I am proud to say, taken the bus, because people who take the bus have given up.” 2 likes
“I believe in a benevolent God not because He created the Grand Canyon or Michelangelo, but because He gave us snacks.” 2 likes
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