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Book review: <i>Dave Barry’s Money Secrets – Like, Why Is There A Giant Eyeball On The Dollar?</i> by Dave Barry

If this was a pizza, it would be the pizza I’m going to make when I get home, using Lebanese bread as a base so you can eat a whole one (pizza) with many toppings and still feel a bit hungry. Pizza. PIZZA!


You’ll be amazed when I tell you it’s another big goofy picture of Dave making a face. See? I told you.

The plot

Since Dave stopped writing columns a few years back, he now has to come up with all new material for his books, and his usual approach is to pick a fat, doughy topic and then knead it out broadly in any direction he thinks will be funny. If you see what I mean. I think the pizza in my fridge is affecting my brain.

The topic! Yes, the topic here is money. As the title would imply. So…hungry…whimper…

The good

That’s one point on the board already – this is entirely new material. Barry’s “theme” books are usually the funniest; if you’re a fan of his columns then you’ve probably read them by the time they get to print, and no weekly columnist has an excellent un-culled strike rate, not even Dave (the master).

As ever, I find Barry’s stuff the funniest when there’s a few vitamins of reality beneath the delicious, greasy cheese and pepperoni prose. The “Guide To Guys”, “Turns 40” and “Turns 50” are good examples.

Not quite so good an example is Money Secrets, because, as he makes immediately plain with characteristically gleeful confidence, there is absolutely nothing to be learned about money within these pages. Which is a fine approach for a columnist to take, but filling up a book without using any facts whatsoever is a bit harder, even for someone as adept at the air-guitar of humour as Barry. So, (as he’d happily admit, I’m sure,) he cheats. He links the topic of money to anything and everything vaguely related that he can think of, and, once again, the best bits are when he cooks with the ingredients he’s most familiar with, i.e. his own life. There’s some fantastic pages, for instance, about the Boomer/X culture gap (although this is more thoroughly explored in “Turns 50”).

Of course, there’s also every garnish, condiment and secret spice Barry’s uncovered in his quarter-century career liberally mixed in: Running jokes, funny thumbnails with silly captions, footnotes, (occasional) puns, misquotes, fantastic fake names, bad band names, sarcasm, bold type, bizarrely accurate facts, adult themes, childish themes, mild substance abuse, some language and violence. Not to mention a deceptively effortless genius for prose wafting off every page like the smell from a wood-fired oven. Mmmmmmm.

Look, this is funny, if not ‘hilarious’, and a worthy addition to any fan’s collection. Don’t buy it if silliness offends you, wordplay bores you or you actually want to know something about money.

The bad

Basically, I wish Barry would produce a memoir along the lines of Bill Bryson’s “Thunderbolt Kid”. As a long-time fan, though, my immediate concern is that he would then, once and for all, have put his very best material behind him. What a way to go, though.

What I learnt

Nothing. Which was, literally, the author’s intention.

In short

Title: Dave Barry’s Money Secrets – Like, Why Is There A Giant Eyeball On The Dollar?
Author: Dave Barry
Publisher: Three Rivers Press
ISBN: 0307351009
Year published: 2006
Pages: 240
Genre(s): Humour, Non-fiction

This review was written by Tom Vaughan. Tom has his own website, which contains many other reviews and strips and art and other fun stuff here

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