Seinfeld wit on paper? Yep, 180 pages

August 27, 1993|By Larry Hackett | Larry Hackett,New York Daily News

The postnasal bleat is not included, so the jokes sometimes lack that aural pitch, and could just as well be coming out of a perspiring fat guy. Anybody willing to spend $18.95 on this elongated cocktail napkin, however, is doing his part, just as Jerry asks.

"I've done my part," he tells us on page 3. "The performance is up to you."

"Seinlanguage," the publishing debut of comedian Jerry Seinfeld, hits stores this week, and it should make Joe McGinniss jealous. Joe, if he can get a copy, will realize he wasted his time spelunking through Teddy Kennedy's psyche, and should have worked on his body-odor jokes instead.

Mr. McGinniss, of course, can still write about Mr. Seinfeld if he wants to, since he doesn't really write about himself at all. "Seinlanguage" (Bantam) is really nothing more than 180 pages of bits -- very thick pages, at that, with really generous margins on the tops and bottoms, sort of like a really bad college term paper. Mr. Seinfeld's not in college, so we won't take any points off, but you ought to know.

On the other hand, "Seinlanguage" also has pictures of Mr. Seinfeld taken by Annie Leibovitz, which means he is very, very now, and you should be honored to lighten yourself of $19 or so for the right to tuck this thing next to the towels in the bathroom.

The bits are from Mr. Seinfeld's stand-up routine and even from the bookend segments that frame his network series. When parsed, "Seinlanguage" slowly reveals the scaffolding of Mr. Seinfeld's world view, which is basically: "If I don't know it by now, I probably don't care and don't ever want to know it."

I'm just a guy with thick cotton socks on, sitting on my couch, watching TV, Mr. Seinfeld seems to be saying without saying. By page 20, it's clear what we have here is a Woody with shame: a neurotic Peter Pan in Nike sneakers and pressed jeans.

If a particular neck of the cosmos can't be wrestled onto a plate or sucked into a Dustbuster, forget it. If it can't be described like a car, or a highway, or a hunk of mozzarella, take it away.

Indeed, "Seinlanguage" can be a hoot. Its only misstep is Mr. Seinfeld's treacly thanks to his late father, whom he credits with getting him started.

"He taught me a gift is to be given," Mr. Seinfeld says -- and he appears to be serious. "I hope I am able to give it to you." Thanks, Jer. Now have a beer and be quiet.

Otherwise, Mr. Seinfeld trolls through the important stuff -- dating, cars, friends, phone machines, jobs, opera, platform diving. It's obvious he's a guy who likes order and discipline. His last bit is about boxes and caskets, which sort of covers all the points. He wonders why they bury men in a suit and with a pillow, which is a metaphysical killer of a query.

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