I don’t often do book reviews on my blog. I’ll leave reviews on amazon , but my blog is largely dedicated to ... well, lets face it... me and my perspectives on things religious.
But when the publisher Simon & Schuster asked me to accept a free copy of a famous personage’s latest tome, someone I respect and whose views I share and humor I appreciate; and asks me to post a review on my blog ...well, convention gets pushed aside. It’s Penn Jillette from the Penn & Teller team! Penn, from the TV show “Bullshit!”. PENN, atheist and comedian and magician par excellence! Fucking A I’ll review it!
Now, see that word above ... “fucking”? This paragraph will contain the last use of that word in this blog post. I have no problem with the word fuck; it has its varied and legitimate uses. It’s a great word. But after reading the word fuck some four- hundred times over 230 pages (that’s 1.7 “fucks” per page) one becomes aware of its overuse. Fifty fucks is shock value. One-hundred fucks are fun and games. Four-hundred fucks is overkill. If one can’t dredge up enough wit without “fuck” dependency ... well, there’s a fucking problem
If that was the only problem with Penn Jillette’s "God, No! Signs you may already be an atheist, and other magical tales” I’d give it five stars. Unfortunately it goes much deeper than that.
The first forty to fifty pages are absolute genius. I found myself nodding in agreement with Penn’s disdain for agnostics, a point of view I have voiced here and in my books. I loved what he had to say about Christians who call atheists “know it alls who have all the answers” when in fact we are the first to say “I don’t know”, while religionists claim knowledge of the “absolute truth” without an iota of evidence. I laughed so hard reading about the antics of Extreme Elvis and the atheist conversion of Hassidim that I couldn’t read through the tears and actually had to put down the book lest I pass out from lack of oxygen.
But unexpectedly, like getting hit in the face with a brick filled pie, his on point and amusing commentary on atheism, religion, the foolishness of belief, and rejection of reality faded away. Without warning the tales descended into something less than magical. What followed were rambling, hideously detailed accounts of Jillette’s personal experiences and sexual exploits that have no detectable connection to the theme implied by the book’s title and promised by the opening chapters. Let me highlight a few of the most memorably forgettable chapters:
- His naked weightless frolicing and vomit filled ride on a zero gravity airplane.
- His naked field trip to a gay bath house in the 80’s.
- His ruminating over his departed older sister whose most admirable quality was that she stated she’d sacrifice the lives of millions of innocents at the hands of an atomic bomb terrorist, rather than turn him in if the terrorist in question was her brother Penn.
- His admiration for aged porn star Ron Jeremy’s genitalia and ability to perform fellatio on himself.
- His love of strip clubs and lap dances and the importance of never denigrating an unattractive stripper.
- His wager that he could have intercourse with a gorgeous large-breasted model while scuba diving which culminated in his masturbating in the ocean, providing a protein snack for the native fish. [Note: all of his many sexual exploits are with gorgeous large breasted women].
- His obsessions with (A) nakedness (his own), (B) masturbation/ejaculation, and admiration for (C) surgically enhanced breasts, and (D) penises (mostly his own).
I didn’t count the number of references to those last four topics but if I were a betting man, and I am, I’d say one-hundred-fifty references would be a conservative estimate. (Note: that would be 0.65 exhibitionist, sex/masturbation, tits, and penis/cock reference on every page).
I’m as far from being a prude as one can be. I can appreciate ribald stories. I have been called a dirty old man since I was fifteen. But I kept looking for some meaning, some tie back to the primary topic, some redeeming quality and justification. I came up empty. Oh, for sure there were subsequent if somewhat forced stabs at bringing the atheism theme back into the forefront. But it seemed like an after thought given that the bulk of the book was devoted to the shenanigans of an aging, sex obsessed, self-indulgent, and eternal high school sophomore. I wanted desperately to like this book, because I love Penn Jillette. I suppose if I were a teenaged pimple faced kid I’d find it very cool. Instead, I found it a massive disappointment and inexplicably depressing.
Nevertheless, "God , No!" will likely be a big seller among hardcore admirers of Penn who will masturbate under the covers with a flashlight as they live vicariously through the imagery of Penn inserting his finger into a gorgeous model’s anus. He’ll make a ton of money from them, and from the betrayed unsuspecting fan who was seeking Penn’s insights on the religious culture war. I wish him well with that.
By the way, if the back cover blurb attributed to Richard Dawkins (Penn claims him as a friend) was actually written by Dawkins, he should be ashamed of himself. If it was written for Dawkins by a press agent that he shares with Jillette, he should sue the pants off the fu ... uh ... clown.