Book Review: Love and Marriage by Bill Cosby (1989)

As some of you remember, I reviewed Bill Cosby’s Time Flies in February. I liked it, so I have invested in other books by Bill Cosby, including this one, for which I paid $2.95 at Downtown Books in Milwaukee.

I’ll give the customary ding to the pop-psych introduction by Alvin F. Poussaint, M.D. Again, this is like throwing a Dr. Phil introduction onto a collection of Andy Rooney pieces, or perhaps Dr. Laura in front of a Chris Rock book. Come on, the difference between the styles jars the reader, and to be honest, if I wanted to read a self-helpish treatise on love and marriage, I would buy a book with pictures, diagrams, and innovations I could not even imagine when I was a fevered twenty-year-old. I mean, it’s like getting served a bowl of brussel sprouts in Baskin Robbins before you can have any ice cream. Sure, I wolfed it down, spitting some into my napkin to conceal it, and then I rushed into the main course of dessert.

This book contains two parts. Part one deals with Cos’s youthful forays into love, which entails everything you expect: Lust, pounding hearts, sweet agony, heartbreak, loss, and all of the above by age twelve. Cosby captures the adolescent and early adult experiences of the opposite sex and the attempts to find a mate–which they did in the old days; now, I think kids just attempt to mate. So this first section really represents the strength of the book, and the stories are told with Cosby’s easy style. Good reading.

Unfortunately, the second part, Marriage, deals differently with his relationship with the woman who finally bagged the struggling stand-up comic who would only decades later evolve into the biggest sitcom star in the business. Perhaps he’s mining his marriage with a sitcom eye for humor, but the second half of the book really focuses on the nitpicking, and the little recurrent tense spots, and the stupid fights that occur in many marriages. As a sitcom veteran, Cosby also recognizes that the husband must be made into the often inept and impotent victim, and that’s how he paints himself. Henpecked. It’s hardly a flattering or inspiring vision of a marriage that’s lasted twenty-five years (as his did by 1989), and Cosby longs for an evolution to a state like his parents’ marriage of fifty years. Ye gods, he’s projecting another 25 years of hard belittlement.

Granted, Cosby hits on the benefits of marriage and at the end alludes to the joys of shared memories, but he disservices the day-to-day, which includes as many (or more, preferably) bright spots as nitterings.

Still, it’s an okay read if you’re a fan of light comic essays in Cos’s style, worthy of a library checkout or a cheap purchase.