This was great fun for the most part. I tried to read my favourite bits to my boyfriend but found myself doubled over, tears streaming down my face and choking with suppressed laughter within seconds.
My favourite scene has to be little Gabi’s unconscious revenge on her grandfather for the childhood nightmares he inflicted on her mother and aunt as depicted in “Stanley, the Magical Talking Squirrel.” Every time I read this one I’m uncontrollably giggling like a maniac, unable to stop until I’m shaking with glee.
I’m trying to pick a line or two from these passages to illustrate Ms. Lawson’s brilliance, but it’s really hard to choose just one, because you have to read the whole chapter to get the necessary background (which is choke-full of mirth and giggles, too!) to fully appreciate the come-uppance visited upon the author’s dad by little Gabi.
My father (apparently misinterpreting my need to bring up the dead-squirrel story every Christmas for the rest of my life as homage to happier times, rather than the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder) decided he should bless his four-year-old granddaughter with the never-ending therapy that resulted from the talking-magic-carcass-in-a-box. He tanned a racoon body, placed the stiffened corpse in a large cereal box, and had hidden it under the guest bed (apparently waiting for the perfect moment to scar Gabi for life), and then he forgot all about it. Weeks later, Gabi found the mutilated racoon carcass under the bed and (thinking it to be a very stiff puppet) wandered around the house playing with her new friend and scaring the shit out of the cat. She crept into my father’s room, where he was taking a nap, and quietly laid the dead racoon on my father’s pillow, like a message from the Godfather. The dead racoon’s shriveled paw gently grazed my father’s sleeping face as Gabi moved the racoon closer so it could give her grandfather an Eskimo kiss. “Papaw,” she whispered sweetly, “wake up and say hewwo.”
This is the point when my dad screamed like a little girl, and then Gabi…
Excuse me, oh no!, here we go again! Helpless laughter. I can’t continue typing since I have to find a hankie to wipe my face, tears and snot and all. And I might possibly have peed myself a little. Writing that makes you laugh every single time even though you already know what is coming has to be a sure sign of genius!
Also: Ms. Lawson’s lavish use of parentheses for even more humorous interjections is exactly my cup of tea, whatever books on “good” style have to say about this.
This book is not just a collection of funny anecdotes, though. Ms. Lawson has been going through some tough shit and her accounts of her diverse illnesses are quite frightening. I have to admire the determination and laconic sense of humour with which she weathers them.
Since I do, of course, believe that the entire world centres around me and that every author writes focussing on me as their sole audience, I usually view the death of an animal in a story as a (very effective) ploy to get MY attention and provoke an emotional reaction. That is why “Honestly, I Don’t even Know Where I Got That Machete” did not hold giggles for me but a lot of snivelling and eye-dabbing. I found Ms. Lawson’s every reaction to the tragedy recounted here absolutely plausible and sensible as I would have done exactly the same. And I hope that I could count on a friend like Laura in my hour of need.
It would be hard to me to come up with a top-five ranking of my favourite stories told in this book, but “And Then I Snuck a Dead Cuban Alligator on an Airplane” would be a close runner-up for second place. Again, the arguments she uses in the discussion with her husband derive from careful deduction and plain common sense. I found myself nodding along to observations such as
But I wasn’t truly concerned until we were already in line at security, and then suddenly I wondered whether someone had once used this alligator to smuggle cocaine in fifty years ago but then forgot to take it out, and now I’m gonna get arrested in the airport for alligator-stomach cocaine that’s older than me. I quietly asked Victor whether you could tell if cocaine was expired, or if it just stays fresh forever, and he was all, “CAN WE NOT TALK ABOUT THIS IN SECURITY?” and I was like, “It’s not for me. “I’m asking because of the alligator,” and he kind of glared at me. […]
Of course, Jean Louise and I got through just fine, and no one even blinked at the alligator on the security conveyer belt. Victor was stopped for a full body search. Probably because he was sweating, and the vein on his forehead was popping out. In the confusion, Jean Louise and I calmly walked through with no problem. Victor could learn a lot from that alligator.
I think that was quite a sensible question to ask given the circumstance. Victor seems like a prickly kind. I wonder how Ms. Lawson is putting up with him. One has to admire her patience. ;)
I probably should have read this over the course of several weeks, one story at a time, to get even more entertainment over a longer period of time, but it was so incredibly hard, nay impossible!, to put down.
Highly recommended to everyone with a sense of humour.