Thursday, March 13, 2014

Book Review: Furious Cool by David and Joe Henry

This is an excellent book about Richard Pryor, one that describes his genius and his work about as well as can be described, tying it to the larger changes of the 60s and 70s. The language is lush and the scenes are well-selected so that it's on the short side rather than the long side. It doesn't hurt that one of the authors (Joe Henry) is an excellent musician as well, which lends itself to an especially haunting final scene.

The real puzzle for me is Richard Pryor himself. The book lays out how his comic genius coincided with, and probably caused, his extreme meanness and insecurity. Why does such incredible performance and on-stage empathy cause off-stage antipathy? Must it? The book only lays out what this looked like but leaves it to the reader to go deeper.

By the way, I was a little wary of listening to this as an audiobook, but Dion Graham does as good of a job at projecting Richard Pryor as Richard Pryor did of ... everyone else. I listened to some of the Pryor routines that Graham read through and heard what Dion said -- he really captured Pryor's delivery. The audiobook is what truly elevated this book for me.

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