Thursday, September 29, 2011

Magical Tales

Penn Jillette, of the comedy-magician duo Penn and Teller, recently published a new book. He's tackled fiction and non-fiction before, written both with and without Teller. This is a solo non-fiction effort with a head-turning title: "God, No!: Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales." Penn has always been an outspoken atheist. I was very curious to see what he would write on the subject.

I wasn't expecting what I got. The "Other Magical Tales" part of that subtitle should be highlighted on the cover, because that's what makes up the bulk of the content. In fact, I'd say that only about 25% of the book is actually tackling the subject of atheism head on. Another 25% is pertinent to the topic, in the form of anecdotes that illustrate how an atheist can still be principled and have morals without any belief in a god. But that leaves half the book a random jumble of tales about visiting a San Francisco bathhouse, suffering a truly horrific mishap with a hair dryer, and so forth.

Now here's the thing. The book is funny. Literally laugh-out-loud funny. And some of the off-topic content is among the funniest material in the book. So, if you're looking to be entertained, there's really nothing to complain about in this book. I was entertained.

But I was looking for more, a witty insight into atheism. Okay, maybe I should be looking to a more learned writer for such material -- a Richard Dawkins, let's say. But then, a Dawkins probably wouldn't be that funny. So I guess you can't have it all.

Overall, I'd rate the book a B. If you want a lot of laughs (and indeed, if you can laugh at this subject matter), then I definitely recommend it.

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