Friday, October 19, 2007

Laughter Reviews, #9

Time for another book review, with the focus: funny or not?



Screenwriter muses about life and lessons learned.

What Works
The author’s style flows easily. Engaging, warm, funny and mildly self-deprecating (such as her analysis of why she was the only young woman who ever worked in the Kennedy White House at whom JFK never made a pass) in a way to which many a reader will be able to relate. It’s not that her life has been all sunshine and roses; there are references to a failed engagement, two divorces, mother succumbing to cancer, the horrific death of a dear friend. But these realities are touched upon lightly, within the larger context of other more ‘regular’ topics of day-to-day life. The author has clearly grasped one of the basic principles of getting one’s message across effectively – that a serious point is more easily understood and accepted by the audience in the form of humor rather than angry / bitter / solemn / pious preaching. The piece ‘Serial Monogamy’, for example, isn’t a heavy-handed rant about the perils of romance (as Apprentice Writer dreaded, judging from the title), but a description of how the author fell in and out of infatuation (cooking-wise) with a series of celebrity chefs and cookbook authors.

What Doesn't
Not every essay is as sharp or relevant as the titular piece, and some references may be lost on readers who don’t share generation-tied experiences with the author. But these are minor quibbles, and shouldn’t be held against the overall calibre and charm of this collection of memoirish thoughts.

One would expect the co-author of such mega-hits as ‘When Harry Met Sally’, ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ and ‘You’ve Got Mail’ to be able to deliver a funny line or two. The author does not disappoint.
From the title essay: ‘Our faces are lies and our necks are the truth. You have to cut open a redwood tree to see how old it is, but you wouldn’t have to if it had a neck. Every so often I read a book about age, and whoever’s writing it says it’s great to be old...What can they be thinking? Don’t they have necks? One of my biggest regrets…is that I didn’t spend my youth staring lovingly at my neck.'
From ‘I Hate My Purse’: ‘Evening bags, for reasons that are obscure unless you’re a Marxist, cost even more than regular bags.’
From ‘Serial Monogamy’: ‘…two historic events occurred: the birth control pill had been invented, and the first Julia Child cookbook was published. As a result, everyone was having sex, and when the sex was over, you cooked something.’ And: ‘…this was right around the time endive was discovered, which was followed by arugula, which was followed by radicchio, which was followed by frisee, which was followed by the three M’s – mesclun, mache, and microgreens – and that, in a nutshell, is the history of the last forty years from the point of view of lettuce.’

But does it make you laugh? YES!
Gentle Readers feeling age creeping up on them or just plain having a bad day can do themselves a favor by spending some time in the head of someone who has been there, done that, and lived to tell the tale with style and wit.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

This sounds like an excellent read. Not that I'm old, but I find this type of humor more appealing with each passing birthday. :)