By Nathan Englander. (Alfred A. Knopf, 206 pages, $24.95.)
Nathan Englander’s comic sensibilities drive this novel about Larry, the black sheep of his family of Brooklyn Orthodox Jews. Funerals are notorious for bringing unresolved family conflicts to the fore. When Larry tells his sister Dina that he does not intend to honor Jewish tradition by reciting Kaddish — the mourning prayers that are said every day for 11 months — the fight he precipitates drives him to look for a convenient solution.
Larry’s decision to click on his computer at his sister’s house distracts him with a bawdy tour of internet offerings, but eventually Larry finds a resolution to his burdensome obligation. That solution lies at Kaddish.com, an online service that will take care of the prayers for Larry for a fee. As one might expect, the quick fix is anything but simple, and the ensuing complications generate raucous humor that flavor his poignant coming-to-understanding about grief, the meaning of tradition, and love between fathers and sons.
Howard Stern Comes Again
By Howard Stern. (Simon & Schuster, 549 pages, $35.)
“Howard Stern Comes Again” is proof that radio’s bad boy has finally reached adulthood. The King of All Media rose to the top of his field by triggering fights, recruiting unstable regulars and poking at guests. But this collection of celebrity interviews, most of which were conducted on his satellite radio show during the past five years, shows off Stern’s skills as a journalist tapping into his innate sense of curiosity and deep well of compassion.
Stern remains obsessed with himself — his questions can often be longer than the answers — but his willingness to confess his own shortcomings often leads the stars to follow suit.
It’s hard to imagine many other personalities convincing Jon Stewart to open up about his split with his father, Michael J. Fox to detail his battle with alcoholism or Gwyneth Paltrow to relive her romance with Brad Pitt, but Stern makes the revelations seem like casual conversations over brunch. There’s a heavy focus on his interviews with fellow talk show hosts — David Letterman, Ellen DeGeneres, Bill O’Reilly and Conan O’Brien all made the cut — but it’s a kick tracking how his peers react to being on the other side of the microphone.
The book also includes excerpts from nearly a dozen chats with Donald Trump and in-depth forewords from a man finally ready to address his private parts — in the cleanest sense of the words.