From the archives...
Tripe of the Month Club
-by Sean Fitzmorris
[Not so] recently my wife and I received in the mail a brochure offering us to join the “Book of the Month” club. The booklet stirred some curiosity in us, so we scanned through it, seeking out titles that would grab and hold our attention. We were not disappointed. As we perused our choices, we were astounded at some the names of the books offered.
Now don’t get me wrong; I know that there are only so many hundreds of thousands of words in the English language. Therefore writers must be severely constrained as to titular choices. In view of these obvious restrictions, therefore, naming works is all about shock value. Grab the reader’s attention by the throat like a rabid pit bull on crack and don’t let go until he buys that book! It is for this reason that we have books with names like we noticed in the Book of the Month Club presentations.
One of the first titles to catch our notice was How to Cook Everything. What an ambitious tome this must be! Imagine! Detailed instructions on cooking everything! My mind boggled with the possibilities. Oh, I’m sure it had all the usual trite recipes, ingredient lists, metric conversion charts and so on. But one can only assume that there are steps to preparing for a delicious repast shoes, concrete, hazardous gasses, the aforementioned pit bull and presumably, the book itself. How far does it go? Does this volume avoid the obvious taboo of, say, cannibalism? On whom were the recipes for everything tried? Woe to the unfortunate soul who had to undergo the dubious honor of being the guinea pig for the chapter on “Sharp Objects.”
Another title that surprised me was Fitness Walking For Dummies; A Reference For the Rest of Us. Fitness walking for dummies? I must say that if anyone needs to purchase a book on how to walk, then I doubt if fitness is truly their most pressing problem. The last time I researched the matter of walking, I realized that the process of actually getting up and going over to the bookshelf pretty much resolved any questions I might have had. Evidently, though, I have not appreciated all the subtle nuances of walking, since someone found it necessary to write an entire volume expositing what for all these years I have taken for granted. Maybe it goes through the history of walking, possibly devoting chapters with titles such as “The First Big Step - Crawling from the Primordial Ooze”; “From All Fours to Biped Locomotion – An Illustrated History”; and of course the requisite tear-jerking stories of persecution and the human spirit, “Walking Through the War Years.”
Rules for Aging is another name that touched a curious place in me. I can just picture the Nursing Home Police stationing themselves down the corridors of the retirement center, handing out citations to all the inmates who were non-compliant with the Rules for Aging. Who exactly is supposed to get these aging individuals to learn and later follow these rules? And who made them up? Some inconvenienced young person, I’ll wager, who is bitter over having to care for his older parents that gave up their own lives to unselfishly provide for such an ingrate. I always figured that aging individuals had pretty much earned the right to make up the rules for themselves and didn’t need some whippersnapper to tell them what to do.
One gripping story that I can’t wait to read is called How to Clean Practically Anything. This must be the long-awaited sequel to the previous How to Cook Everything. Logically, one would need to clean up after cooking “everything.” So what a handy reference this must be! I wonder if the author accepted the challenge of describing how to clean dirt. Anyone can figure out cleaning linoleum, clothes, walls, cars and so on, but really spic-and-span dirt is my test to them. So how ‘bout it?
A few other titles raised some thought provoking questions. For instance, how did the author of Extraordinary Sex Now manage to find the time to actually pen this tome? Furthermore, how did he/she determine what was “extraordinary” as opposed to the merely ordinary? No doubt there are those among us who would consider any sex extraordinary, no matter how plain. What about the author’s partner(s)? Did they too consider this sex extraordinary? How do we know that the author is not such a dullard to the point that extraordinary sex is any form of copulation during which his or her partner didn’t fall asleep? One would think that Slow Hand: Women Writing Erotica would be a natural successor to this work. But I’ll gamble that absolutely none of the heroes and heroines in Slow Hand display a working knowledge of any of the advice given in Extraordinary Sex Now, perpetuating my probably misogynistic theory that women don’t even know what they want, so how can we men?
Don’t even get me started on Get Anyone to Do Anything. I can only assume that this is the great-granddaddy of encyclicals from which all the other book titles I have reviewed here spring. How to Manage Your Mother was another title which drew my inquisitive gaze, but about which I found it necessary to write an entirely separate article.
Yes, I know the old adage that you can’t judge a book by its cover. But as book covers are all that the Book of the Month Club has given me to go by, I say that they are fair game. Now please excuse me, but I must go finish reading The Idiot’s Guide to Forming Premature Opinions.