Reviews for Take This Advice : The Most Nakedly Honest Graduation Speeches Ever Given

Publishers Weekly Annex Reviews
Among the speeches that Bark bills as "the most nakedly honest graduation speeches ever given" are many that start out rather shy and apologetic, like Salman Rushdie's address to Bard College's class of 1996, in which he observes: "You, unfortunately, have to make do with me." Rushdie's speech is a winner, but it's also an exception; most of the 36 entries in this volume are more trite and perfunctory than nakedly honest. Many of them adopt a graduation tone--humble, omniscient, vaguely condescending--likely to remind readers of their own somnolent ceremony. A few of Bark's speeches do break from this mold, however, and those are the strongest and most affecting in the collection. Wally Lamb takes readers back in time through his own experiences as a father and writer, and Frank McCourt mocks the tropes of other commencement speakers and describes his past as a teacher. Many of the strongest speeches double as mini autobiographies, like Bill Cosby's revelation of his loopy beginnings as a poor and overconfident comedian. One exception is Will Ferrel's comic speech within a speech, a parody of George W. Bush in which Ferrel-as-Bush drawls, "[T]he chances of landing a decent job are about as good as finding weapons of mass destruction in the Iraqi desert. Slim and none. And Slim just left the building." A few chapters later, Bush's speech at his alma mater, Yale, is spiked with several jokes of its own. "It's great day for you," the president tells the graduates' parents, "it's a great day for your wallet." In the end, the book is saved by these few "honest" speakers, who seem to have known instinctively that, when called upon to give advice, the best thing to do is recount your own experience or crack a joke. (Apr.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.