As a “demand side” reader, I went on a reading tear a few weeks ago. I wound up reading 5 books in about 5 days. I have not read a single book since. This is par for the course around here.
Since I try to be efficient, I’ve decided to write short reviews of these books, and post them here over the next week. It was an eclectic mix. There should be something for everyone!
First up: You Can Date Boys When You’re Forty: Dave Barry on Parenting and Other Topics He Knows Very Little About. Dave Barry is a Pulitzer Prize winning humor writer whose column ran in the Miami Herald for roughly 20 years (not that he’s old enough to make that possible). In this book of long-ish essays, he does tackle parenting, but not just parenting. There is Justin Bieber, for instance, and Fifty Shades of Grey — not in the same essay, mercifully. There’s a nice chipper essay on “Death” (with a diversion to Viagra) and another on trying to become more manly.
There’s nothing too deep in here, but that’s the point. Barry is just fun to read. I bought the book in Hudson Books at Penn Station (a rather depressing place to be at 10 p.m.) and he made my train ride enjoyable. Indeed, I laughed out loud in the quiet car, which my fellow passengers did not find funny. Oh well. There are too many good lines. Like Barry’s description of the Fifty Shades of Grey heroine: “In short, Anastasia is a totally believable and realistic depiction of a normal twenty-one-year-old female American college student as she might be imagined by a middle-aged female British author who has lived her entire life in a cave on another planet.” He reprints paragraphs of E.L. James’ horrible prose (“I muse matter-of-factly”) and warns readers that “The book is over five hundred pages long and the whole thing is written like that. If Jane Austen (another bestselling female British author) came back to life and read this book, she would kill herself.”
Or there is Barry’s discussion of publishing: “As a bestselling author, you will be sent out on a book tour, which is a multi-city trip starting out in New York City and ending in death. Ha-ha! I’m exaggerating of course. FACT: Only eight percent of book tours are fatal to the author. … You will go from city to city appearing on TV and radio shows where you will be interviewed by perky on-air personalities who have not read your book and sincerely do not give a s*** about it. If they were interested in books, they would never have gotten into radio or TV in the first place.”
He manages to keep the levity going for almost the entire 200-plus pages. The only weak spot was his account of a group tour to Israel that he went on with his wife and daughter (they’re Jewish, he’s more of an atheist himself). It’s more awkward than consistently good, partly because it’s hard to make package tours funny, even before Barry decides to touch on the day he spent at Yad Vashem, which comes all of four sentences before one of about 50 jokes about his wife’s shopping habits.
But that’s a small chunk of what is an extremely funny book. Highly recommended — particularly if you’re waiting to board a plane. (According to Barry, “Most airlines board planes by income level.”)