Audiobook Review — Seven Dirty Words: The Life and Crimes of George Carlin


HBO recently released its two-part, four-hour George Carlin documentary, which is excellent, and it got me in the mood to listen to several audiobooks by and about George. The first I’m going to review is Seven Dirty Words: The Life and Crimes of George Carlin by James Sullivan. Read on for my thoughts on this book.

Publisher’s Summary

In Seven Dirty Words, journalist and cultural critic James Sullivan tells the story of Alternative America from the 1950s to the present, from the singular vantage point of George Carlin, the Catholic boy for whom nothing was sacred.

A critical biography, Seven Dirty Words is an insightful (and, of course, hilarious) examination of Carlin’s body of work as it pertained to the cultural times and the man who created it, from his early days as a more-or-less conventional comedian to his stunning transformation into the subversive comedic voice of the emerging counterculture. Sullivan also chronicles Carlin’s struggles with censorship and drugs, as well as the full-blown renaissance he experienced in the 1990s, both personally and professionally, when he became an elder statesman to a younger generation of comics who revered him. 

Seven Dirty Words is nothing less than the definitive biography of an American master who changed the world and also a work of cultural commentary that frames George Carlin’s extraordinary legacy.

My Thoughts

As I’m wont to do, I listened to this audiobook using Downpour, a great audiobook store (and app) with a massive selection of books across a wide swath of genres.

Seven Dirty Words is an enjoyable book. Released in 2010, one year after George’s posthumous autobiography, its a little over 10 hours in length and covers the lauded comedian’s life and career.

James Sullivan appeared in the George Carlin documentary, so I guess George’s daughter, Kelly — who has her own book — thought highly enough of this book to include him in the HBO piece. After all, she’s in charge of George estate and shepherded the production of this new documentary.

Seven Dirty Words is narrated by Alan Sklar. With a deep, gravelly voice, he’s well suited for a book about George — a comedian whose sonic skills always commanded attention.

I enjoyed Seven Dirty Words. It’s long enough to feel substantive but doesn’t overstay it’s welcome. I learned a few things along the way, and the audio production made for a pleasant listening experience. If you’re a George Carlin fan or simply like reading illuminating biographies, check out Seven Dirty Words.

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