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le 26 mai 2004
I picked up this book because I like Dave Barry's columns, and I ofen find them to be laugh-out-loud funny, even the juvenile scatological parts. I hadn't read his previous novel, but I saw this one and picked it up on the spur of the moment. I'd have to say I was disappointed.
In the first place, it was advertised as light-hearted fun. I didn't find it all that funny, and the graphic violence spoiled the momentum of what funny parts there were. Just as I was starting to chuckle at something a little amusing, something awful would happen, and I'd say to myself, "Hey, this isn't funny." (...)
In the preface, Mr. Barry mentions that he had gotten some negative feedback from his previous book about bad language. He goes on to say that the books are about bad guys, so naturally there will be bad language. Well, okay, I didn't mind the language. But I did mind the violence.
It comes down to this for me: broad comedy doesn't mix well with graphic violence. You need to make a choice about what kind of book you want to write. If you want to write a book about vicious killers, don't try to make it funny. If you're trying to write a funny book, don't write about vicious killers. It's that simple.
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le 4 septembre 2003
Tricky Business starts off with a written warning: "THIS BOOK CONTAINS SOME BAD WORDS," and says to not read the book if you don't like four-letter words. But most people that read this book are his loyal fans, and I am among them. I really enjoy Dave Barry's humor. I am not against swearing if it's necessary in context, but this book goes so far over the top with profanity that it becomes tedious to read. It's just "F**K," "F**K," and more "F**K." This is highly uncharacteristic of Dave, as he hardly ever swears, even in his nonfiction books, and this book is a terrible first impression for a newcomer to his humor. If I had never heard of Dave Barry, I would have put this book down 2/3 of the way through (if I made it to there) and dismissed him as a sorry loser who needs to get a grip on life. He is not. He's a talented humorist.
So, maybe you're thinking, "He's Dave Barry! He must have written SOMETHING funny in this book!" The answer is yes, though barely. When he talks about the band members or the two retirees, there is a charm, however brief. When he talks about the scummy drug dealers, he goes so far off the deep end that it almost crosses the line into self parody.
Take for instance, where Tark gratuitously cuts off Juan's nose and his ......, delivered in such a mean-spirited, graphic manner that only a sick cretin (much like modern-day George Carlin) could have written it. Also, take for instance the part where Tark sticks tape over Frank's mouth, which is bleeding, so Frank is forced to swallow his own blood and choke on his own vomit. Take for instance, the totally unnecessary sex between Lou Tarant and his secretary Dee Dee while he finds out a crucial piece of information over the phone. Every single thing mentioned above is without a trace of humor. They are also clearly not intended for laughs, and they are totally out of place. They belong in a disturbing crime novel, not a Dave Barry book.
As I said above, I'm not against those sort of things, as long as they are justified. Here they are not. Tricky Business is a bloated, self-indulgent 300+ page book, a sadly disappointing thing from any so called humorist, much less Dave, who is a very funny person. If his subsequent novels are like this, I'll probably hesitate at the thought to read anything by him again.
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le 27 août 2003
What is the sound of no one laughing?
Answer: the same sound as one would hear in a room wherein someone is reading Dave Barry's sophomore novel, "Tricky Business."
Good grief! Does it get more soporific than this?
After a long time avoiding fiction, soaking up facts in the nonfiction world, I returned with a vengeance hoping to bolster my own writing skills. What I have found is one pretentious, pointless, or boring read after another.
Surely Pulitzer Prize-winning humorist Dave Barry can save the day!
But, alas, "Tricky Business" has as much wit as a coma victim. Most thirteen year old boys have a more fully realized arsenal of funny scenarios rattling around in their bags of scatology, as well.
Writing about his favorite topic, Miami sleaze, Barry introduces us to a wasted bar band, a couple wrinkled elders acting half their age, the Mob (of course) and all their lackeys, a down-on-his-luck ship captain, a frustrated single mom working beneath her abilities as a cocktail waitress, and a surly conch, all converging on the aptly named casino boat, The Extravaganza of the Seas, during a tropical storm. There's a plot to doublecross the mobsters and, well...actually that's the only real plot. Can't really make much of any subplots worth mentioning. Sadly, the parts - which do have potential - never add up to anything. Three hundred and change pages later and you've got one giant ho-hum... and the aforementioned lack of mirth doesn't help, either.
What really disturbs me about this book is its mean spirit. Barry has a warning at the beginning about the language, since many of his readers objected to the obscenities in his previous novel, "Big Trouble." I forget which comedian told the story that his mother warned him never to work "blue", and I can tell you that Barry should have heeded that guy's mom. The profanity, adult situations, and grisly nature of "Tricky Business" just make it wearying. A humorist should know that the F-word just isn't all that funny anymore. Someone like P. J. O'Rourke can write a piece and make it totally ribald, but his choice of funnier (and cleaner) words for profanities takes his work to higher level. Barry, so clever in his column, should know this, but he abandons wisdom in favor of lowbrow mucking about. Boo.
Hopefully Barry will rebound with his next novel, but he's got to work his fiction-writing chops up a notch. The writing here is just poor: bad plotting, underdeveloped characters, and a pacing that needs a transfusion of adrenaline. When your novel isn't funny, lacks suspense, and doesn't really say anything about the human condition, it's time to get the number of a good book doctor.
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le 4 juillet 2003
Fans of Miami Herald humorist Dave Barry know his trademarks well. He has a rapier wit, especially when it comes to mutant constipated worms and the social infrastructure of exploding toilets. He has a way of saying what the layperson is thinking with hilarious results. And as he showed us in his fictional debut with "Big Trouble," he can weave a bunch of flat stereotypes into one massive interrelated plot and make us care about their individual fates simultaneously.
Not so with "Tricky Business," a waterbound thriller that owes more than a little to the stylings of fellow Floridian Carl Hiaasen. TB takes the same idea that Big Trouble had - that is, to take a dozen initially unrelated characters and have all their stories magically relate by book's end - but executes it miserably. It's horrible to say that Dave Barry has typecast himself into strict comedy, but he has, and the rampant violence, sex, and coarse language that feature prominently on almost every page in the book are neither a true indication nor a good first impression of Barry's real abilities. While I'll spare you from detailed accounts of the various scenes other reviewers have seemingly eagerly piped up about, I will say that they are least representative of the Dave all fans of his column know and love, and that the warning that appears before the story is almost ESRB-ish in that it is a bad indicator of what really lies inside this needlessly vulgar novel.
Not only is it nasty beyond reason, it takes forever to get anywhere. The hardback clocks in at 224 pages, and even at 150 pages nothing that is on par with the constant thrill ride of Big Trouble has occurred yet. This lack of action in 150 pages would be fine in a book like the uncut version of "The Stand" (~1150 pages), but if you only had only 74 pages left, wouldn't you start worrying too?
Dave Barry may think he's struck a niche with this sort of bombastic character-oriented miscellany, but he's way out of his league. The only characters he knows are bland with archetypes that can only come out of The Big Book O' Cliches. However, Big Trouble was successful because the situation at hand allowed us to care about those characters. These cardboard cutouts he has created are silhouettes, devoid of personality and humor, but possessing a mean-spirited darkness that is enough unlike Barry's renowned wit to be a turnoff.
The only ones keeping this book from receiving one less star, as a matter of fact, are the grumpy old men (not Lemmon and Matthau). Unfortunately, their wizened lungs don't have enough fresh breath to resuscitate this casino-centric novel whose trolling motor sputters and dies before it even gets out of shallow waters.
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le 30 avril 2003
"Tricky Business" is the story of a rundown cruise ship that makes nightly runs three miles offshore so people can gamble away their money. Of course, being a Dave Barry book, it includes a large assortment of oddball characters, including a pothead guitarist, a single-mom cocktail waitress, a guy in a conch costume, and an entrepreneur who specializes in both newspaper-filled car air bags and badly augmented breasts.
As someone who giggled and guffawed his way through Dave Barry's "Big Trouble," I eagerly awaited his second novel, fully expecting the same gonzo writing that made his first book so appealing. But when I sat down to read "Tricky Business," I instead found gangsters killing each other in ever more inventive and bloody ways, a repulsively detailed mass-vomiting scene, and truly gratuitous amounts of sex.
And yet the book would have been acceptable even with all this, had it been funny. Instead, the belly laughs that made "Big Trouble" so enjoyable are largely absent in this book, mostly replaced by weak grins and an occasional chuckle. There are a few very comical scenes involving such oddities as flatulence during sex and how the band winds up on this cruise ship to hell; these alone save "Tricky Business" from a one-star rating. But when I pick up a Dave Barry book, I really don't want to read in excruciating detail about how one lowlife amputates various body parts off another lowlife. I can see stuff like that on the evening news for free.
Sadly, Dave Barry has badly misfired with "Tricky Business." He should steer clear of murderously unfunny criminals and get back to what he's best at, namely booger jokes.
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le 13 décembre 2002
Dave Barry's first novel, Big Trouble, was a lighter-than-air affair; featherweight, utterly undemanding, but frequently very funny, and quite enjoyable in its way. This, his second, is every bit as light and undemanding, but generally worse in every way.
It's much less funny, for one thing. Oh, there are laugh-out-loud moments here and there, but overall it's much lower on humor, and it has an unforunate number of grimly unfunny bodily function jokes. There's a hot babe roulette croupier, for instance, whose excessive flatulence is a running gag. Ha ha. And then there's a scene involving copious vomitting. It's not even slightly humorous, but I infer that it's supposed to be from the use of facetious phrases such as 'barf brigade.' It's not that I'm categorically opposed to crude humor, but it has to actually be *funny,* don't you know. These are not.
So what's the book about when it's not going for laughs, then? Violence. Lots and lots of violence, including a few truly repellantly sadistic scenes. As you can imagine, these mesh with the novels lighter parts very uneasily, and they raise serious questions as to what exactly Barry was trying to accomplish with this novel.
There's not much point in talking about the characters; they're the same sort of lazy stereotypes that populated Big Trouble, only more so. If there was a fun story built around them, this would be fine, but there's not. Having it take place on a gambling ship was a good idea, but that's about all. It's ultimately a pretty mundane thing with drug dealers--Barry tries to make you think it's a very elaborate, intricate plot, what with the dozens of characters and frequent quick narrative flips between them, but when you think about it you realize that it isn't, really. Pure illusion. And you'll have a lot of time to think about this as you sleepwalk through the long, dull, laugh-free climax.
This coulda been something, but as it stands I really can't recommend it, even to those in the market for something light and fluffy. It's a muddled, confused novel, with enough unpleasantness to tip the scale away from the good parts. If you're curious, get it from a library. Buying this in hardcover would be insane.
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le 5 décembre 2003
There's no question that there were some really funny moments in Tricky Business. And, excepting some really grotesque dipcitions of torture, it's a light, easy read, which I suppose was the goal. But as much as the plot came together, the writing didn't. Barry drifts between slapstick comedy, sappy romantisism, and noir crime novel violence.
The changes in voice and style were sudden, and completely unconnected from the story. It kept me from getting lost in the story in a way that I wanted to. I was always aware that this was an effort - "Ah, Dave's trying to be funny. Ah, Dave's trying to be a serious writer. Ah, Dave's making fun of South Florida.
Not bad for a couple hours of diversion, but one could certainly do a whole lot better with an author who knew what he was trying to write.
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le 23 novembre 2002
From the start Mr. Barry warns the reader that this book contains foul language and that if one is offended by such language then don't read it. While I am no prude when it comes to obscene language I do believe that this book goes over the top. Rather than write a better description of the characters and their surroundings he just goes the easy route and throws in a huge dose of bad words. The best part of the book occurs when the old retired gentlemen are in the picture. The most amusing part is where the two make their escape from the retirement home to be able to board the Extravaganza of the Seas. I wish the book had focused on these two even more and less on the sexual prowess of the band. If you like a filthy read then this is the book for you, otherwise I'd say skip it.
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le 24 mars 2003
I am a very, very, very, big fan of Dave Barry. But, this book underminds his intellegent writing. I loved Big Trouble. It had a wonderful but simple plot. I mean it HAD a plot! Tricky Business lacks that one important detail you need in a book. It seems this book just tries to pull us along by American Pie gross-out humor. There was no thought put into they way people acted or killed each other. Just cut the balls off, and get it over with. Compared to Tim Dorsey or Hiassan, who think of funny invetive ways to kill people. The characters are too sterotypical. I found myself not caring for any of the characters if they died or lived, it made no difference to me. This book was just churned out of the factory like a really bad movie sequel.
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le 8 novembre 2002
I was really disappointed in Dave with this book. He is my favorite writer, and this one doesn't meet his standard of intelligent humor. I was hoping for the best after his wonderful Big Trouble, but Tricky Business is not close. To give you a hint: the f-word is used on almost every page. To quote Mr. Barry, I am not making this up! The situations are hilarious in concept, but the writing of the situations is pretty bad. The swearing does not help the writing sound intelligent. I'll give him this though; several scenes did make me laugh out loud, and the whole subplot of the two escaped senior citizens is hilarious the whole way through. Overall, however, I recommend his books of columns first and Big Trouble second.
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