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BOOK REVIEW : It Gives All the Seins of a Successful Work : SEINLANGUAGE; By Jerry Seinfeld ; Bantam Books; $19.95, 180 pages

September 14, 1993|VERONICA CHAMBERS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

There's a problem with books written by comedians. They're not always funny. Without the comedian's timing and expression, a lot of jokes fall flat on the page. This, however, is not a problem with Jerry Seinfeld's first book, "SeinLanguage."

For fans of Seinfeld's prime-time show, and there are legions of them--20 million viewers and counting, and the ratings are through the roof--reading this book will be like curling up with Seinfeld and having him whisper his witty observations about life into your ear. (If you're a single woman, this is an especially appealing prospect.) But even if you aren't familiar with his work (I've only seen the show twice), it's easy to follow along.

This book is divided into eight chapters that begin with the "Freeway of Love" and "Personal Maintenance" on through the more esoteric subjects of "Shut up and Drive" and "The Thing Is The Thing." And just in case you forget what Seinfeld looks like, each chapter is preceded by funny black and white photos taken by celebrity photographer Annie Liebowitz.

While many authors use their introduction to prep you for the material that is to follow, Seinfeld uses it to tell you how generally thrilled he is to have written a book. "I certainly never imagined at 15," he muses, "when I started writing down these funny thoughts that kept coming into my head, that someday they would amount to a book."

Lest you think he is too reverential of books and the publishing world in general, he goes on to say:

"I also find a bookstore to be a wonderful laxative. I don't know what it is. I don't know whether it's the quiet or all the available reading material, but you walk in there and something just happens. I really think they should eliminate a couple of aisles and put in some nice men's and ladies' rooms in the back, and then a bookstore would really be a wonderful place to visit."

*

Seinfeld holds his own on such typical comedy territory as technology:

"I love my phone machine. I wish I was a phone machine. I wish if I saw somebody on the street I didn't want to talk to, I could just go 'Excuse me, I'm not here right now. If you just leave a message I can walk away.' ".

And surely his analyst must chuckle at the jokes Seinfeld finds in the Freudian family tree:

"All fathers are intimidating. They're intimidating because they are fathers. Once a man has children, for the rest of his life, his attitude is 'To hell with the world, I can make my own people, I'll eat whatever I want, I'll wear whatever I want and I'll create whoever I want.' "

But his true brilliance shines through when he waxes irreverent on male-female relationships and the mysteries of the opposite sex.

"Why do people who work in offices have pictures on their desk facing them?" he asks, "Do they forget that they're married? Do they say to themselves, 'All right. Five o'clock. Time to hit the bars and pick up some hookers. Hold it a second, look at this picture. I got a wife and three kids. I completely forgot! I better get home.' "

On the subject of female beauty habits, Seinfeld appreciates that "Women definitely go to maintenance extremes. It's amazing the way women take care of all the hair on their bodies. One of the great mysteries to me is the fact that a woman would pour hot wax on her legs, rip the hair out by the roots, and still be afraid of a spider."

All throughout, Seinfeld doles out the kind of humor that not only brings a smile to your lips, but makes you laugh out loud. It's easy to see why he's such a success.

And as for that army of fans, where do I Sein up?

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