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Dave Barry
You Can Date Boys When You're Forty: Dave Barry on Parenting and Other Topics He Knows Very Little About
Putnam / Penguin Putnam
US Hardcover First Edition
ISBN 978-0-399-16594-8
Publication Date: 03-04-2014
224 Pages ; $26.95
Date Reviewed: 03-19-2014
Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2014

Index:  Non-Fiction

Humor is a fascinating literary experience. As readers, we have little understanding of just what is happening, but when a writer is able to make us laugh, the effect is undeniable. And what's most interesting about great humor — and make no mistake this book has lots of great humor — is that even when you know the joke, you can still have that experience, again and again.

Dave Barry's 'You Can Date Boys When You're Forty' goes a bit beyond humor, and the hallmark of his talent as a writer is that even when Barry is not being funny he's just as engaging as when he's making you laugh. The material here is all-new and original to this book, and Barry is not shy about using the book format to give the collection a diverse feel. You get goofy lists, personal anecdotes, a lengthy and sweet travelogue, even advice on how to be a professional author. You also get a book you will want to read again and again, even if it's just to find the anagram for a famous actor's name.

Barry's insights into the writing life, which begin the book in an Introduction that explains the title, read as if he's saying the nicest things you've ever heard. But there's a great dualistic nature to the writing that's very funny. You read so fast you have no time to notice the craft that goes into the experience. In Dave Barry books, laughter happens.

| Barry covers a wide variety of humor styles in this collection. A number of the essays stem from his home life. His experience as the parent of a thirteen-year-old girl informs "Sophie, Stella and the Bieber Plan," while he touches on married life (and other topics) in "What Women Want," :"Nothing! Really" and "Death." One of Barry's strengths is that he eschews the sort of humor that draws on discomforting embarrassment. He's willing to take aim at some targets (Viagra commercials and '50 Shades of Grey'), but he does so in a manner that emphasizes silliness and absurdity.

Other essays are exercises in high silliness, with lists of what's manly, lessons on good grammar and an air traveler's FAQ played out in deadpan perfection. He offers advice for the millions of would-be bestselling authors haunting the online bookselling and publishing world, and manages the neat trick of addressing them in a genial manner that is nonetheless quite hilarious.

The centerpiece of the book is his Israel travelogue, "Seeking WiFi in the Holy Land." There are loots of laughs here, but there's also quite a bit more. Barry effortlessly slips effortlessly from humor into poignancy and then back to the laughs with a disarming ease. He's well aware that he's treading in territory that demands a certain level of seriousness and he manages this but never loses his sunny, absurd outlook. It's an exemplary piece of writing that manages be both thought and laughter provoking.

'You Can Date Boys When You're Forty' is not a big book of deep thoughts, but it's a smart book for both the reader and the writer. The prose is crisp and easy enough to read to make the jokes go down easy any time you pick it up to read it. And behind all those jokes there's a world-class mind at work, hard at work, dismantling our oh-so serious selves one sentence at a time. Putting yourself back together afterwards is an exercise left for the reader.

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