Wednesday, February 13, 2008


I would like to suggest that we consider retiring these formerly-fresh tropes, which have hit their saturation point and gone soggy.

1. Books whose titles pretend they are instructive but which are actually novels.

I submit as evidence: Boating for Beginners, Faith for Beginners, Adultery for Beginners, Beginner's Greek, Tuscany for Beginners, Sushi for Beginners, Tree Surgery for Beginners, A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, A Concise Dictionary of Chinese for Lovers, Love: A User's Guide, A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, and the one that perhaps spread this whole infection with its runaway success, A Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing. Is that enough yet?

Here is why I dislike this.
a) It reads like a marketing ploy that is at best uninspired and at worst cynical.
b) I am incorrigibly literal.
c) Seeing these titles triggers a contrarian urge in me to call their bluff. What if I actually want to learn tree surgery, or am a tractor-enthusiast practicing my Ukrainian, or am planning a trip to Tuscany, or want to learn how to adulter better? Who couldn't benefit from a practical user's manual for love? Instead these books will likely offer yet more lessons in how intoxicating/confusing adult relationships are, in disparate memorable settings, with flawed yet lovable heroines.
d) It's like, imagine if Kelly Clarkson's last album was called Black Metal.

Exempt from my condemnation are Magic For Beginners by Kelly Link because it is awesome and she is awesome; ditto the ingenious and inventive Life: A User's Manual by Georges Perec; The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy because it did it first; and An Arsonist's Guide to Writer's Homes in New England because although it pushes the cutesy buttons a little hard, the title is actually what the novel is about, someone burning down Emily Dickinson's house in Amherst.

2. Designs featuring bird silhouettes.
So delicate and pretty, so ubiquitous, so boring.

3. The human-pet "Mommy" and "Daddy" relationship.
Perhaps I am irreparably scarred by seeing my mother open her arms and summon my cat thus: "Foot Foot, come to grandma!" But it still gives me the howling fantods to be referred to as "mom"-- especially because it most often occurs when someone has taken it upon themselves to speak for my pet. "But mom, I'm not done playing yet!" they will helpfully tell me, on Emmett's behalf.

Look, I baby-talk my pets as badly as anyone; the poor dog hears more high-pitched rhetorical questions in a day than anyone should have to suffer in a lifetime. I am their caretaker, their kibble-pourer, their primary fur-loosener, their scratching post, but I am not their "mom." Ew. Some bitch in Tillamook County whelped my sweet Emmett, bless her, and I have no interest in stealing her title. Seven was a mother herself back in the days before I got her--no way am I the "grandmother" of some orange street cats roaming around south Brooklyn.

At the dog park recently, a guy rode up on his bicycle to meet up with his girlfriend and dog, and she cried out, "Look, Jake, Daddy's here!" I believe I need not add any further comment.

P.S. Band names that start with "Black" or "Super."
For obvious reasons.


Megan said...

on a side note the film, "A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints" is pretty fucking awesome.

Anonymous said...

I know it's unsavory, verging on offensive, but I refer to myself as Normando's mother frequently.
I also often refer to myself as "Daddy" in social situations.
Oh well.