Picks and Pans Review: Book
It seems that in her 20s, Whoopi Goldberg (née Caryn Johnson) was encouraged to relieve troubling ulcers by freely releasing gas. "I was like a walking whoopee cushion," she recalls—hence her nickname. Fine. Can we move on now? Not so fast. Goldberg dedicates the entire second chapter of this disappointing memoir-cum-essay collection to flatulence. "Beans don't get me in the way they get other people," she writes, in a typical, thanks-for-sharing moment.
Your idea of entertainment? Then by all means read this profanity-laced book, for which the actress and comedian—widely admired for her social awareness, intelligence and creative versatility—reportedly earned $6 million. That's a lot to pay for stale stand-up material about bodily functions ("People who pick their noses in cars should be arrested"). And the book's 240 pages prove conclusively that what might seem brilliant onstage can die an ugly death on the printed page. That goes for ramblings about oral sex, men not putting down the toilet seat, and bathroom tissue.
Book (maybe for another million she would have come up with a title) is best when Goldberg recalls her childhood in New York City housing projects and her years as a single mom struggling to get off welfare. After going to beauty school on scholarship, she landed a job doing hair and makeup for a funeral parlor. "The money was good...you made your own hours...and the customer rarely talked back," she says. Sadly, Goldberg's inspiring and amusing story is lost amid the stench of the rest of her material. (Rob Weisbach Books/Morrow, $22)