The Trials of Lenny Bruce ***** by Ronald K.L. Collins, David Skover

 thetrialsoflennybruce I cannot remember the last time I felt so strongly about a book I had bought. I have never, ever felt this strongly about a CD! I found, by a rare bit of luck, this hardcover book in brand new condition, in a used book store. The CD inside the cover was still sealed. It is not just an actor on the CD; it is actual footage of Bruce’s voice performing (along with narration by someone else). It cost me all of five bucks. Unbelievable!

If you are a champion of free speech, you have to know that this amazing (though oh yes, profane) comedian broke new ground. It could be (and has been) argued that he paid with his life, that performing in a nightclub LINED with cops all up and down ultimately broke him, but he did not go gently.

The first time I heard the material was in the movie “Lenny”, starring actor Dustin Hoffman in the title role. I knew it was good, but I was also young, had very tender ears, and I think there were times when the one-two punch of some of the words that I hadn’t heard much, caused me to miss some of the point. Even then, I understood that this was a powerful thing, though.

This book and ESPECIALLY the CD, which provides not only the words, but the all-important inflections (transcribed, for those who miss some of what goes by in the snappy nightclub patter, in the book), is one of the most important pieces of primary evidence I have ever been privileged to hear, see, and own. I cannot believe the clarity of the sound! For those, like me, to whom the early sixties are not within the realm of memory, the book is essential for context. There are people who were well known at the time whose names go by like gunshots in his routine; two who come to mind were a cardinal and a bishop. The context that the CD does not provide is in the book.

The text itself is 442 pp. in length; the rest is meticulous documentation. Pictures of everyone…this is a treasure!

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