Hippo Manchester
December 22, 2005


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Books: 700 Sundays, by Billy Crystal (Warner Books, 2005, 192 pages)


If the Catskills were still alive with the sound of gelecter, Billy Crystal would be reveling in the clatter of tiny knockers hitting tables as the crowd showed their appreciation in lieu of applause. (Excessive clapping can scratch or damage bejeweled bracelets and rings, donít you know.) Never one to hit below the Borscht belt, Crystal takes his Tony Award-winning one-man show from Broadway to page with 700 Sundays, the title a reference to the number of Sundays he was able to spend with his father, who died suddenly of a heart attack when Crystal was just 15 years old. The book is a breezy love letter to his dad, and you can practically hear Crystalís rapid-fire impersonations and Yiddish one-two punches bounce from the book. Crystal recounts his childhood through members of his family, who are memorable characters in themselves: His Aunt Sheila, who lives in Boca Raton; his grandfather Julius, who couldnít resist a one-liner and a punch line that sounded a lot like flatulence (because it was); his Grandma Susie, whom he called the ďOne-liner Queen,Ē who once asked Louis Armstrong at a seder, ďLouis, have you tried just coughing it up?Ē Itís laugh-out-loud fodder, as most comics will tell you, because itís true and itís a lot harder to make this stuff up than it is to recall it.

Crystalís comic timing isnít lost in the written word, and though the underlying theme rings tragic, he gravitates toward the funny bone and tells brilliant stories of his youth, including being taken to his first movie by jazz singer Billie Holiday. Itís a fast read, but itís got zing and punch. Crystal has a warm way with words, from sharing the time his dadís new car got hit while they dined at a Chinese restaurant, to the time her walked in on his naked grandmother (ďI mean, I loved her, but no one should ever have to see that,Ē he writes). Itís a poignant tribute. And now, Iím off to have lunch with my father.

ó George Pelletier