I like Lewis Black’s standup, and I like him on The Daily Show; I was less than impressed, however, by his sort-of-biography, Nothing’s Sacred. Lewis qua storyteller with occasional swearing is not the Lewis Black we’ve come to know and love.
Me of Little Faith is Black’s second attempt at the book form; ostensibly, it’s a book about religion with that certain Lewis Black je ne sais qua. In practice, it’s an inconsistent series of narrative vignettes about Black’s formative years or Seinfeld-like “And what’s the deal with Buddhists?” kind of humorous chapters.
It’s embarrassing, actually. If you’re reading to book to watch Black take the piss out of the follies of organized religion, cults, or trendy pseudo-spiritual mumbo-jumbo, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. While he flogs his historical Jewishness, he also swears by the powers of a psychic friend of his, and actually seems credulous about the ability of horoscopes (he still reads his every day after one predicted the end of his marriage…..). Really, Lewis? Either this is satire par excellence or he looks like a total fool. He just can’t accept Christianity, but boy, the horoscope column has a lot of insight?
I think part of the problem is that Black’s comedy simply doesn’t translate well to a print medium: his delivery, that of a grumpy guy made apoplectic by rage at life’s idiocies, is entirely lost in book form; he realizes this, I think, insofar as he doesn’t even try to emulate it very much, but I fail to see what else he has going for him: he’s sort of insightful, I suppose, when he’s not speaking with unbearable credulity about psychics and gurus and other nonsense he apparently carries with him from his days as an LSD-dropping theatre major, but why? Knowing what I know now, I would much rather watch one of his HBO specials then crack open this book: there’s no comparison, really.
Take these irritating vacillations on matters religious and spiritual, and add to it that Black is not really a compelling storyteller, and finish by devoting a large portion of space to a short comedy (unfunny) comedy act that Black did many years ago, and you’re left with a book that is not only not entertaining, but aggravating to boot. I felt cheated; though I knew Black’s last book was an entirely different creature than his standup, I wasn’t expecting a book as flat and stupefying as Me of Little Faith.