MixedThe New York Times Book Review\"Written in spare, fractured prose from the perspective of a narrator who seems to be reporting from inside Laurel’s mind, this odd and ambitious book is so dense with show-business detail that it may alienate nonfans. Even Laurel and Hardy lovers may be put off by its somber, experimental mood ... Connolly’s staccato prose leans on short sentences and chapters (there are 203) that at their best evoke the style of Samuel Beckett, an admirer of Laurel and Hardy. The novel nicely brings Laurel down to earth ... one closes this book still unsure about who Stan Laurel really was, though this may be part of the point. Trav S.D., who wrote the excellent history Chain of Fools, once described Laurel on screen as \'completely vacant, like a beast of burden, like a black hole.\' Connolly takes us behind the scenes but the view isn’t much different. Laurel remains a cipher, a comic type, a star without a name.\
MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewSam Wasson may be the first author to explain its entire history in comprehensive detail. For that reason alone, it’s a valuable book, benefiting from dogged reporting and the kind of sweeping arguments that get your attention ... What mars this book, however, is not its overreaching claims or narrative ambition, but its fuzzy conceptual framework. It’s like a lively scene with great jokes but no direction ... Improv Nation is at its more assured in the pre- and early-history of the form, when the number of improvisers was small enough that telling the story of the art through a collection of personalities is more manageable ... To do justice to the impact of improv comedy, you need a wider lens, one that explores the increasing importance of improv theaters in the comedy ecosystem, the various schools of pedagogy and how the principles of improvisation have infiltrated the business world, traditional acting and popular culture.
David J. Skal
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review...an essential examination ... His command of the material combined with his gifts as a storyteller manage to make this an authoritative book without a dull moment, its wandering narrative always returning to the shadowy corners of Victorian sexuality ... Skal devotes considerable attention to speculating about the influence of Oscar Wilde, often with labored comparisons to Dracula ... with its emphasis on the unspoken and repressed passions of Bram Stoker, its most provocative point may be that the book transcended its time by being firmly a part of it.