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Saturday Book Review

March 3rd, 2007

I think I was 12 or 13 the first time I read “Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen” by Alix Kates Shulman (274 pages; $15; Farrar, Straus & Giroux). It was my mom’s copy — she let me read anything I wanted. Thank you, Mom!

First off, I identified with the book, like most other females have for thirty-five years now (??? what???), even when I got to the intriguing, horrible and mystifying parts (her molestation; her hideous illegal abortion; her running off to upstate New York to wait tables, wherein both a millionaire and the chef fall for her; her European adventure, where she gives her lover “the Clap”; her mishaps in college and marriage). I adored this book then and adore it now. So to have an advance review copy fall in my lap (newest edition; paperback) it was like getting a box of bon-bons.

Laced with Scotch.

(Also, I was fascinated by the author’s name: Alix, not Alex. Kates, not Kathryn or Kate. Exotic! And the character was from Ohio — all of the heroines in other books I was reading where from the West Coast. Or New York. But the Midwest? Intriguing…)

She quotes Emerson, in a Dear John letter to her beau:

“Did I hurt you by leaving without saying goodbye? If so, I’m sorry. I knew you’d understand eventually. I just had to go without anyone’s permission, not even yours. As Emerson says in an unbelievable essay called “Self-Reliance,” I must be myself.”

(Yes! My 12-year-old self thought: Sasha Davis is brilliant! I, too, must be myself!)

OK, no spoilers here, in case you haven’t read this book — but the ending is what you’d expect and not at all what you’d expect. This novel really is a feminist classic.

“‘You’re a sweet boy, George, but I’m off sex.” He probably didn’t even find me pretty.

‘I didn’t think you would. I just thought — I mean, I hoped –’

‘I’m really sorry, George.’

‘Oh well. It’s been very nice knowing you anyway, Sasha. I liked you.’”

Next up: “Babyproofing Your Marriage,” by Stacie Cockrell, Cathy O’Neill and Julia Stone (289 pages, $24.95, HarperCollins Publishers). Ladies, where have you been for the last ten years? Because I’ve needed some help in learning how to “laugh more, argue less, and communicate better” as my family grows.

Learn about…

“Scorekeeping: An exceedingly complex, often relentless tit-for-tat war waged by husbands and wives…”

“The Ten O’Clock Shoulder Tap: Considered by many men to be a form of foreplay…” and…

“Clash of the Grannies: Who gets to be called ‘Grandma’…” and much more. No wonder it doesn’t seem like it was waaaaaaay back in 1972 when “Ex-Prom Queen” was published — what the hell has changed? We need all the help we can get around here, in the land of Domestic Strife and Chaos.

I also received a review copy of “Good Kids/Bad Habits,” by Dr. Jennifer Trachtenberg ($21.95, 319 pages, HarperCollins Publishers). I don’t even want to find out my RealAge. I’m a bit concerned that I’m actually 77. She includes loads of information about the health crisis our kids are facing. (Hints: No video games, less sugar, more exercise and a better diet is a good start. Just fyi.) Did you know that American kids are facing battles with adult diseases such as high blood pressure, clogged arteries and weak bones? Did you know that this is the first generation that may have a shorter life expectancy than their parents?

On a lighter note, Trachtenberg is opposed to the “five-second rule” (“If the food lands where the bacteria are, it will become contaminated almost immediately”); she is pro-consistency. I think this book is going to be my new Bible for some time to come. She also tackles teens, and who doesn’t need help there? She includes some recipes, some checklists, and some sound advice. And the book includes a comprehensive list of websites for parents and kids. Wacky Girl’s favorite is the Yuckiest Site on the Internet.

After reading these books, I had to scoop up the kids and love on them.

Wacky Boy says, “I will give you a hug first, then one of my special kisses.” (It’s a kiss on one cheek, then the other, then the lips, then you rub noses. It will do you in, a kiss like this.)

“What would I do without you?” I asked.

“I dunno. Cwy?” he says as he runs out of the room. He calls over his shoulder, “You wouldn’t have anyone to teach you everything.”

Now that is for sure.

re: a video they made my daughter’s class watch today:

At the end of the videotape, one of the girls started hissing, “Booooo!” and (this is when the class, as a group, really shines) then the kids yelled (pretty much in unison), “BYE, LOSERS!” (When they’re in the mood for singing, they do a nice medley of “We Are Family,” “Dance to the Music” and “Give Me Some Money.”)

Yours,

WM

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