Free-Range Chick­ens

Simon Rich
  • Review
January 10, 2012

I real­ly like this book. I thought I’d make my opin­ion known at the out­set as I am not a fan of reviews that make peo­ple wade through count­less para­graphs before declar­ing their ver­dict. I pre­fer let­ting you know how I feel and then explain­ing why because at least you’ll know how I feel even if you don’t care why. 

I admit I want­ed this book to be good. Although I’ve nev­er met Simon Rich, he is cur­rent­ly a writer at my Sat­ur­day Night Live” alma mater and I have the same root­ing inter­est for that show and its cur­rent inhab­i­tants the same way I cheer on my old high school’s foot­ball team though I haven’t been a stu­dent there since 1968

But Free-Range Chick­ens far exceed­ed all expec­ta­tions as Simon has the unique abil­i­ty to both zero in on life’s odd­i­ties, and cre­ate equal­ly absurd worlds with­in them (“Acupunc­ture School”), as well as decon­struct famil­iar worlds (“I Think My Teenaged Daugh­ter Knows I Read Her Diary”) and pre­sent­ing them in a way that no one ever bar­gained for. The short pieces con­tained in this thin vol­ume are not only based in intel­li­gence, but the author also makes the assump­tion that the read­er is equal­ly knowl­edge­able about his sub­ject mat­ter. So when he offers some of the less­er pub­li­cized com­mand­ments that Moses was hand­ed on Mt. Sinai, he sim­ply pre­sumes that the read­er will not ques­tion the fact that, in total, there were 613 com­mand­ments and that not all of them are as emi­nent­ly known as those first ten. 

The book’s cat­e­gories range from Grow­ing Up” to Rela­tion­ships” to God” and, for all its dry, off-beat hilar­i­ty, there’s an inher­ent wis­dom here that makes the illog­i­cal some­how log­i­cal or, at the very least, make as much sense as most of the cours­es I took in col­lege. So, at the risk of repeat­ing what I said at the begin­ning of this review, I real­ly like this book.

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