Picks and Pans Review: Dave Barry Turns 40
Topicwise, the event doesn't rank with the depletion of the ozone layer, the saga of The Pat Sajak Show or the aesthetics of cola cans. But even when the issue is this personal, Barry keeps his uniquely wry, white-bread sense of humor, remembering that every cloud's silver lining can always be devalued, so it's best to get the laughs in early.
This book, not to be confused with any collections of Barry's newspaper columns, is dedicated to "Dan Quayle, who proved to my generation that, frankly, anybody can make it." It is divided into consistently witty reflections on aspects of aging, such as the one where Barry reminds contemporaries that "life expectancy for human beings in the wild is about 35 years. Think about what that means. It means that if you were in the wild, even in the nonsmoking section, by now you'd be Worm Chow. So we can clearly see that going past age 40 is basically an affront to Nature, with Exhibit A being the Gabor sisters."
Other topics include baldness (Barry muses on hairpieces that "make you look as though you have for some reason decided to glue a road-kill to your scalp"), children (he talks of his young son's "pouring PurpleSaurus Rex-flavor Kool-Aid on the patio to form a Liquefied Sugar Theme Park for ants") and sex (Barry notes that the impotent can use an implant involving "valves and switches and remote-control devices, so that you'll be able to get an erection not only when you wish to have sex, but also whenever anybody within a mile of you operates a microwave oven").
While this isn't the triumph of concept and execution he achieved in Dave Barry Slept Here (his satire on history and historians), it is an imaginative, reliably amusing book. Be warned though that near the end there is a startling, serious section on aging parents, in which Barry discusses the suicide of his mother, who remained so distraught months after the death of her husband that she took "a massive overdose of Valium and alcohol." It's impossible to drop something like this into a humor book without its bringing things to a grinding halt, but Barn manages the process relatively gracefully, ending by recalling the smile his mother had the last time he saw her: "I can still see that smile anytime I want. Close my eyes, and there it is. A mom, trying to reassure her boy that everything's going to be okay." (Crown, $16.95)