Second City alum Molly Erdman bookifies her popular blog
*Full Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy from Penguin in exchange for this review. Therefore, I am bound by the Rules of Swag to tell you that if you purchase this book, it will fill the deep empty part of your soul that you only talk about after you’ve had a bottle of wine and are chatting anonymously online.
Just kidding. I just wanted you to know I got free stuff and you didn’t. The review is my unvarnished opinion.*
I must say I was shocked to get an offer to review something on my website. Devoted readers (and I love each every one of you cuz there’s only 25 of you which makes it easy to keep track of) probably aren’t that surprised:
Devoted Reader: You have the word ‘Author’ in your title. Besides don’t you know how this works? Blog word of mouth for books costs a pittance compared to other forms of advertising and has longer staying power. And what better place to find readers than book blogs. This is elementary social media marketing, Himbo.
Me: Wow, Devoted Reader, you know a lot about publishing. Do you think you can get me an agent?
Devoted Reader: Absolutely not.
So since you won’t help me I’m forced to turn my attention to book reviews. Here’s my first:
The book is called Catalog Living At Its Most Absurd: Decorating Takes (Wicker) Balls by Molly Erdman. It’s a coffee table book written in the voices of Gary and Elaine, a fictional couple that inhabit catalog pictures. The premise originated on Erdman’s popular tumblr CatalogLiving.net. Gary and Elaine are described as
a well-heeled and deeply superficial couple living happily among abundantly pillowed chairs, giant abacuses, and decorative fruit.
A promising premise for sure. My first thought was: Who the hell decorates their house with a starfish or an old life-preserver? Then I remembered an old friend’s mother decorated her house in what I would describe as “trinket-centric”. She a decorative butter churn in the bathroom. In the same bathroom a textured print of the Velveteen Rabbit watched you while you took a dump.
So I was on-board immediately with a tour through Gary and Elaine’s house while they captioned various IKEA-looking staged rooms. The captions themselves are often clever and gently mocking (though not laugh out loud funny to me–this is not a diss on Ms. Erdman–as I tend toward the super not gentle (or subtle) end of the spectrum).
I found the chapter intros to be the funniest parts of the book, tinged with pathos and little bits of detail that flesh out Gary and Elaine’s trivial existence.
For instance, Gary seems to harbor some surface (with people this shallow there are only two settings: surface and one micron below surface) hostility for Elaine:
In fact–and I would say “ironically” if Elaine wasn’t always telling me I use that word incorrectly–living rooms are less about living and more about doing as little as possible.
Or in Chapter 5 when discussing decorating children’s rooms
What we mean is that children keep you in the immediate moment, sucking you into their careless attitudes. Elaine insists that I mean “carefree” but she had her chance to write this chapter intro and she chose to do to her cardio eye-rolling class instead, so what I say goes.
Elaine comes across as the more vapid of the pairing (a tall order) breezily throwing out made-up or misquoted statistics like:
It’s common knowledge that humans spend five-eights of their lives in bed,
Research shows that we spend five hours a day in the bathroom
These idiotic justifications for overindulgence in fake plants and decorative piles of stones add more bite to the captions that make up the majority of the book. Erdman is distinctly skilled at picking out the oddest and most useless items in these pictures for ridicule.
Partway through the book I started trying to guess which aspect Gary or Elaine would comment on before reading the captions. More often than not they keyed on something I missed. Say two clocks with wildly different times in a kitchen that had, among other things, the umpteenth decorative bowl of apples and a glass of orange juice next to a bowl of salad (?).
And (as much as a coffee table book can) by extension it ridicules those of us that would aspire to having a home that looks like a Williams & Sonoma showroom floor.
The ample snark makes obvious what awful people Gary and Elaine would be if they ever stepped out of the catalogs in which they reside. We can rest easy knowing that Gary and Elaine would probably catch a case of the vapors at the lack of purely cosmetic old-timey life rings adorning actual houses.
Catolog Living At Its Most Absurd: Decorating Takes (Wicker) Balls
By Molly Erdman
115 pgs. Plume/Penguin Publishing, $18.00
That was tougher than I thought. Who knew it was so hard to write a post without using the words butthole or skank or fuck? You should be proud of me. After all, studies show that 92% of all blog posts on the internet refer to anal sex at least twice.
Have a materialistic weekend.
OPERATION: YOKO NO NO UPDATE- WEEK 16
Yoko is following: 851,709 (+14,782)
@SomethingAuthor is following: 1587 (-49)
Weekly Recap: You know it’s funny. We (and by we I mean everyone other than Yoko Ono) were almost spared Yoko Ono. Apparently after meeting Yoko in London and making little impression on him, she started calling him at home. Allegedly his wife at the time, Cynthia, asked who it was. John dismissed her as someone trying to get money for her “avant-garde bullshit.“ Alas he thought with his boner. And now we have Yoko Ono, famous person. Instead of Yoko Ono, counter-culture burnout who lives in a trailer outside of Tempe, AZ and pays her rent selling turquoise jewelry. C’est la vie.
Something Authorly’s Follower Of The Week: Derek Blackmon @derekblackmon
The guy has fucking performed with Gallagher. Do you need anymore reason to follow him?
-Please note, Follower Of The Week is chosen by combing through my emails alerting me of new followers and then mercurially picking one. I don’t know these people and they almost certainly don’t condone or endorse anything on this blog. If you win follower of the week and don’t want to be, send me an email and I’ll take it down. To get all the deets on Operation Yoko No No go to the top of the main page or click here.