Patricia Marx and Roz Chast have a delicious premise for their slim illustrated humor/advice book “Why Don’t You Write My Eulogy Now So I Can Correct It? A Mother’s Suggestions” (Celadon Books). Marx, a New Yorker writer and former writer for “Saturday Night Live” and “Rugrats,” shares the wisdom of her mother, a sharp and “unabashedly blunt” lady with a fatalistic view of the world, especially when it comes to fashion, entertaining and parenting. Her mom channels these feelings into wonderfully mordant wit.
“If you feel guilty about throwing out leftovers, put them in the back of your refrigerator for five days and then throw them out,” Marx’s mom advises. And “If you see me eating egg salad, you will know the diagnosis is terminal.”
Marx collects a number of these part practical, part fakakta commandments and has New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast illustrate them. I loved the excerpt I saw in the magazine in February. But now reading the book, they’re … nice.
I think my shifting feelings may have something to do with Marx’s introduction to the book. It’s so funny that she overshadows the gags that follow. For example, she recalls the time when she was 9 and staying at a summer sleep-away camp. Her mother wrote: “When Daddy and I come up for Parents’ Weekend, you are to stop whatever you are doing and run up and hug us. Even if you are in the middle of a tennis match. It’s too embarrassing to be the only parents whose daughter doesn’t miss them.”
Suggestion: Read the gags first; save the intro for dessert.
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