But every now and then, we find a book unrelated to our professional pursuits that’s quite worthy of discussion. Steve Martin’s Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life is just such a work.
This weekend, I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by it. And not just because I plowed through the first half of it so quickly.
If you know Steve Martin, you know he is (obviously) funny. That sensibility is clearly reflected in the book. What I found so impressive was how beautifully the book was written. The prose is clean, and at times quite lovely. He’s a playwright who’s written serious works. I simply had no idea what a careful and creative author he is.
If you are looking for an enjoyable airplane/beach/hammock read, I highly recommend this.
Note: That extensive excerpt can be found in the February 2008 edition of Smithsonian Magazine; it will give you a flavor of his style and content.
"Absolutely magnificent. One of the best books about comedy and being a comedian ever written." –Jerry Seinfeld, GQ
"The writing is evocative, unflinching and cool. When Martin takes a scalpel to his life, what you feel is the precision of the surgeon more than the primal scream of the unanaesthetized patient…Born Standing Up is neither fanfare nor confession. It gives off a vibe of rigorous honesty. With lots of laughs." –Richard Corliss, Time Magazine
"A spare, unexpectedly resonant remembrance of things past…Martin’s one true subject is the evolution of his comedy–the transcendent moments…A smart, gentlemanly, modest book…winning." –Jeff Giles, Entertainment Weekly, EW Pick: A
"The archetypical story of the underdog’s rise and a particularly American story…beautifully written, honest, engaging, and quietly brave." –Frederic Tuten, Bomb Magazine
Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life
Scribner (November 20, 2007)
Steve Martin Home page
The Man in Front of the Curtain
(Steve Martin’s Johnny Carson Letter)
How the pathbreaking comedian got his act together
Smithsonian magazine, February 2008