Monday, 4 October 2010

Review: Sh*t My Dad Says

You worry too much. Eat some bacon... What? No, I got no idea if it'll make you feel better, I just made too much bacon.
 Says Dr Sam Halpern, the 21st century's answer to Lazarus Long–except that Dr Halpern has a much more colourful vocabulary (it took me an hour to find a quote that didn't need asterisks) and his philosophy is less cracker barrel and more direct.   At age 28, writer and Dr. Halpren's son, Justin Halpern was forced by circumstances to move back in with his 73-year old father and found himself faced with comments like,
The worst thing you can be is a liar...Okay, fine, yes, the worst thing you can be is a Nazi, but then number two is liar.  Nazi one, liar two.
As a sort of coping mechanism, Justin Halpren started posting his father's aphorisms on his twitter account and before he knew what was happening his followers started numbering in the hundreds, then the thousands, and then the hundreds of thousands.  It became that artefact of the digital age: The Internet sensation and soon Mr Halpren was facing book offers and television deals.

 The result is the book Sh*t My Dad Says, a spot on the New York Times Best Seller's list, and an incarnation on television as $#*! My Dad Says starring William Shatner.  Not bad for a Twitter feed.

Sh*t My Dad Says is a thin volume, which is a plus because it's an extremely funny book and Halpern knows that the joke can only carry for so long before it wears out it's welcome. It's basically the story of the younger Halpern's relationship with his father, who is described as the "least passive-aggressive person on Earth".  In fact he's so blunt and given to, um, creative language that it surprises some people that the elder Halpern is a retired research scientist in nuclear medicine.  At least, it surprises people who haven't met many research scientists.

In between accounts of how the the elder Halpern guides the younger Halpern ("The one Dad yells at") through such things as lying about a science fair project, Little League baseball, and The Talk (at Denny's in full earshot of a table of fratboys), we're treated to more words of wisdom such as,
First things first: A car has five gears.  What's that smell?...Okay, first thing before the first thing: Farting in a car that's not moving makes you an ***hole.
The book is very economically written and Halpern is honest about his (many) shortcomings and his father shines through as a man who cares about his son, but isn't letting that get in the way of getting the last bowl of Grape Nuts.  It's touching in places, hilarious and infinitely quotable in others, and as blue in language as a barber shop parrot, but it achieves something that is a real rarity: A humour book that people will remember a few years down the line.

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