If Drew Carey can get a book deal (not to mention Paul Reiser, Brett Butler, Ellen DeGeneres and Jeff Foxworthy), then why shouldn't we get a comedy book from crusty old George Carlin, a guy who was pioneering observational humor back when Jerry Seinfeld was in diapers? Brain Droppings, then, is a sort of gold watch for Carlin, now celebrating 40 years in comedy and 60 years on earth.
Readers, though, will feel less rewarded. The problem with Droppings isn't Carlin's material: After filling 18 albums with his trenchant, sometimes profane rants against life's absurdities, he still has plenty of venom left. He hasn't stopped skewering all kinds of people (particularly "guys who want to shake my hand even though we just saw each other an hour ago," "old people who tell me what the weather used to be where they used to live," and "people over 40 who can't put on reading glasses without making self-conscious remarks about their advancing age"). Nor has he quit having fun with wordplay ("I've never owned a telescope, but it's something I'm thinking of looking into") or asking head-scratching questions ("If the Cincinnati Reds were really the first baseball team, who did they play?"). And while not everything here is fresh and inspired ("Why don't shelled peanuts have shells?"), it's clear that Carlin's thinking is as pleasantly warped as ever.
The problem is that we're only getting half the goods. Carlin's well-honed strengths—nuanced word renderings, fast-paced delivery—are sorely missed. And no matter how funny a joke is, reading it isn't nearly as enjoyable an experience as hearing it expertly told. Let's hope that when Carlin turns 65, he releases a 19th album instead of putting it down on paper. (Hyperion, $19.95)