Why We Suck
By Dr. Dennis Leary
(Viking Adult)

Buy it at Amazon!

Dennis Leary is best known for his acting roles in the films Wag the Dog, The Thomas Crown Affair, and The Ref, among others. He now presents, Why We Suck: A feel good guide to Staying Fat, Loud, Lazy and Stupid, a book most appropriately classified as a 240-page rant.

Although the subheading promises a “feel good guide,” Leary’s material in no way nurtures the fat, loud, lazy, stupid Americans he assumes to comprise his audience. Chapter by chapter Leary essentially scolds his readers for who we are, what we care about, and the causes and issues for which we may or may not assign our purpose in life. Leary spares few, managing to cover parents, celebrities, children with learning and developmental disabilities, parents who do and do not punish those same children with physical abuse, and the list grows worse. Some people find this funny.

I can appreciate a decent rant and comedic spin on the news when I hear one, but what is missing from Leary’s take, aside from credibility beyond his membership in the human race, is any draw for his readers to retain an interest in what quickly becomes a predictable series of Debbie-downer-infested snippets of Leary on pop-culture – slash – why-he-is-better-than-every-one-else-save-his-wife-and-maybe-Oprah. Indeed, his awe for Oprah and her success is probably the one element of the rant that contradicts the otherwise ho-hum-the-world-is-f-ed-up-and-it’s-all-our (America)-fault theme that incidentally pervades the remaining chapters.

Occasionally the rant reveals some gems, to Leary’s credit, for example, his declaration that “we’d get a lot more done in this country if we finally could put to bed the idea that men need to be more like women and vice versa,” but such moments of intrigue ultimately prove to be few and far between. Witty? Sure, at times; but for the most part Leary’s greatest success lies in his ability to emote such a rant despite simultaneously presenting himself as the very type of person who he would otherwise most despise.

Jessica Stein

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