BOOKS: In the Frazier Museum

After his parents' death, a New Yorker humorist finds meaning by studying the intricate branchings of his family tree

Ian Frazier's first book, Dating Your Mom (1986), collected a decade's worth of his hilarious short humor pieces, most of which first appeared in the New Yorker. Then came Nobody Better, Better Than Nobody (1987), which contained five pieces of New Yorker nonfiction. These displayed Frazier's tenacious reporting skills and whimsical self-consciousness: "I had not been in Texas long before I started having millions of insights about the difference between Texas and the rest of America. I was going to write these insights down, but then I thought -- Nahhh."

In Great Plains (1989), though, Frazier wrote his insights down and...

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