You'll have to forgive Intern Alexis if she seems a bit sluggish today — it's just that this week's edition of the Times Book Review is the most depressing thing she's read since Dicey's Song. It's amazing that, between the reviews of Iraq-related literature, Joan Didion's self-pity, and some nasty tales of child molestation, poor Alexis didn't kill herself. But our girl is nothing if not brave and so, after the jump, she looks depression in the eye and does her damnedest to skewer whatever she can.
The theme of this week's New York Times Book Review is Iraq. These books about Iraq are many things: interesting, heart wrenching, infuriating, &c, &c. But do you know what these books about Iraq are not? Particularly funny. We tried; we really, really tried to find some zingers and baZAAMS in these here book reviews. But we came out as empty-handed as the weapons inspectors after they didn't find any weapons of mass destruction. Mmmm yes, we are not Jon Stewart, in case you were confused. In any case, it's about time this stuff is being said and even being the sarcastic motherfuckers that we are, we couldn't find anything to laugh about in this mess.
A certain S. Weir of Chichester, NY writes in, complaining about the NYTBR's boner for Joan Didion. "It is as if Joan Didion is the only one who has lost a loved one, or perhaps the only one who can verbalize her loss," "S" writes. "S" goes on, "This obsession with Didion's obsession with her loss on the part of The Times and other publications has become morbid and tiring. O, St. Joan of Didion, stop ye whining and complaining. Find some inner strength and stop crying a river in public. Want to mourn? Have the dignity of doing it in private. Enough!" Hmm, let's just say "S" was wise not to use his/her full name. And Chichester? Where is that? We don't think that's a real place. Joan Didion fans are a fierce, violent batch and we think "S" might be in the Witness Protection Program. We instant messaged our friend about this and he had this to say: "I've always been amused by all the people in the phonebook who just use their first initials. I always assume they're all women — who don't want heavy breathers to know they're women." Thanks, friend!
How To Cook Your Daughter: A Memoir
By Jessica Hendra with Blake Morrison
Reviewed by Jeanne Safer
Speaking of dark, un-funny material, Jessica Hendra has written a book describing how her father, a former National Lampoon editor, molested her as a child. We always thought those Lampoon editors were just a bunch of wimpy Harvard grads with drinking problems. Looks like they were all that and a little bit more:
The Hendra family values depicted in "How to Cook Your Daughter" include orgiastic drug binges and full frontal nudity with his Lampoon cronies. Jessica Hendra's mother seems to have protected her from none of it. There were also violent or perverse photo shoots featured in National Lampoon - one of Jessica, her sister and other children dressed as child pimps and prostitutes is on the book's cover - and enough instances of physical neglect that, if true, make one wonder how the girls avoided being removed by child welfare authorities.
If that weren't enough, there's this: "The scene as recounted in the book in which she tells her therapist that her father forced her to perform oral sex on him when she was 6, that he threatened to leave home if she did not comply and tucked her in afterward, is intercut with excerpts from the Lampoon piece the book is named for, written just months before the night she describes."
The Halloween edition of NYTBR is a dark place indeed. But there was a light at the end of the tunnel. Once we escaped Iraq, death and molestation, there were two sentences in this week's NYTBR that turned our frowns upside down and made us LOL, and dare we say, ROFL ? Yes, it's true!
In her review of the two new Kennedy memoirs, Jodi Kantor writes: "A dishy Kennedy memoir is a rare thing; about as many family members have written tell-alls as have had bar mitzvahs." And then, if that wasn't funny enough, Dave Itzkoff, in skewering Dylan Jones's "iPod Therefore I Am," scoffs: "And a reader doesn't have to wade too deeply into Jones's own confessional to discover its author isn't really as fascinated with the iPod as he is with another boxy white artifact - namely, himself." Hahah! And then we started crying again.