Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Cursing Mommy's Book of Days, by Ian Frazier

As an infrequent reader of the New Yorker, I was unfamiliar with Ian Frazier's Cursing Mommy columns and the conceit behind both them and this book: the Cursing Mommy (who remains nameless) is writing a column (or a bloh) via which she reflects on life, offers both new age and folksy wisdom liberally sprinkled with the sayings of her Grandma Pat, and conveying tips on DIY projects, crafts, and cooking. On a nearly daily basis, however, something goes awry and she becomes enraged, spewing the curses for which she is known.

At first this is funny--and Frazier effectively satirizes a number of cultural developments--book groups (the Cursing Mommy's book group specializes in books about the Bush administration, whose members often come into considerable abuse when Cursing Mommy loses her cool), the overmedication of children (one of Cursing Mommy's sons sets fires and engages in other behavior that might suggest a future as a serial killer), health insurance companies that cover nothing but continually raise premiums, Nigerian Internet scams, schools that require parents to provide labor or school improvement projects, etc.

The formula got old fast, however--it would probably be better read in small bursts (like weekly or monthly, in a magazine) than as a "novel." In addition, a few things just weren't funny--most notably, a stalker played for laughs. I couldn't help wondering if that was related to the author's being male, something that caused me some niggling concern throughout. I would also hypothesize that the book might be funnier in print than in the audio version, which is how I "read" it. The actress Cynthia Nixon is the narrator and she really lets it rip when Cursing Mommy starts to curse. It's not the cussing per se; I myself have been known to use profanity--I was even held responsible when my then-two-year-old grandson used inappropriate language at preschool. However, having someone scream foul language when you are reading for pleasure is, in fact, not very pleasurable.

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