'Like a conversation with an old friend'
'Way To Go, Smith!'
William Morrow Books, $24
Review by Catherine Alexander
November 12, 1999
(CNN) -- It seems that a modern comic can not be truly established or successful unless they have written a book. Bob Smith is no different. But where other comedians-turned-authors see a book as written version of their comedy act, Smith -- known as the first successful openly gay comic to have his own HBO comedy special and to appear on the Tonight Show -- took a new approach in his 1997 book "Openly Bob." Through a series of personal essays, he set out not to make us laugh, but to make us feel. He offered insight into his life and the world around him -- his family, his companion, and problems that we could all relate to.
That style -- which won Smith acclaim and numerous awards -- is present in his new book "Way To Go, Smith." He starts by updating us on the major change in his life since the last book: The Break Up. His description of his break-up with his boyfriend of ten years is something that everyone can relate to. Gay or straight, man or women, all of us have been rejected (If you havenít, please write a book and let the rest of us in on the secret -- I will even review it for you!). Smith discusses the division of kitchen utensils (Tom took the good serving spoon), having to change the message that Tom had recorded on the answering machine, and the loneliness that comes with soup for one.
Smith shares with us many areas of his life: His motherís probing questions about his social life, memories of his first crush, trips to visit his grandmother, dealing with his fatherís death, dating again after rejection -- all things that we can recognize in our own lives. Instead of writing for a specific audience, Smith writes for people. The honesty of his book is touching and moving without being overly dramatic.
If it sounds depressing so far, fear not. I was not able to resist a chuckle at Smith's description of his grandmother stalking Perry Como, or how "Cat in the Hat" would have turned out had it been written by the dark-natured poetess Edna St. Vincent Millay:
The Cat in the Hat is old, fat, and gray.
"Way to go, Smith" is like a conversation with an old friend. Though the story isn't always an easy one to tell, there is a comfort in the telling that makes you laugh, makes you think, and makes you understand what it is to be Bob for a while.
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