Jeruen's Reviews > I Shudder and Other Reactions to Life, Death, and New Jersey

I Shudder and Other Reactions to Life, Death, and New Jersey by Paul Rudnick
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Jun 09, 11

Read in August, 2010

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 and In & Out. So the non-fiction parts of the book basically is him narrating all the comic things that occur while he was working on these projects.

He also narrates about his friends in New York City, and about his family as well. Of course, in these narrations, real-life people occur, and I always get curious as to whether these people really existed. So when he narrated his friendship with William Ivey Long, who was a costume designer who for a time lived in the Chelsea Hotel, I went to Wikipedia and looked it up. When he was narrating about the time he spent in Sister Act and how he did research on it, I came across Dolores Hart and how she used to be an actress who is now a nun, and now is the only nun who is able to vote on the Academy Awards. I googled her as well, and sure enough, it's a true story.

Interspersed with these non-fiction chapters are several fiction chapters that are always entitled I Shudder, and subtitled with the topic of the chapter. All of the fictional chapters narrate the life of a certain Elyot Vionnet, who is this somehow bizarre character, kinda superhuman, and at the same time, rather cruel. I especially liked the first time Elyot appeared, when he was watching this girl who was always on her phone, and how Elyot criticized this girl's phone habits. Elyot stalks the girl, and calls the girl, convincing to let go of the phone for a week, and observe her surroundings instead and see what she is missing. She tries it for a week, and then decides to meet Elyot. The girl first tells Elyot that she saw wonders. Elyot was about to tell the girl You're welcome when the girl turns around and complains to him that the girl saw flaws and bad things happened after she let go of her phone. In the end, the girl blames Elyot for this, and immediately picks up her phone again. At the exact same time, the girl gets run over by a tour bus, because she wasn't looking, and ironically, the people riding the bus gets out their phones and takes a picture of her, so that they can send it to their relatives in Oslo.

Anyway, I guess I am not doing any justice by trying to describe the humor, one should read this book for himself. But I have to say, this is perhaps one of the few books that I actually laughed out loud while reading it. The way his humor works, it is unbelievable. It's a weird sense of humor, and since I am not well-versed in humor typology, I don't know of a better way to describe it.

Let's say I am giving this 4.5 out of 5 stars. That's high enough to show that this is one good book to read.
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