I’ve been a fan of Laurie Notaro since I stumbled upon a copy of her first book, The Idiot Girls’ Action-Adventure Club: True Tales from a Magnificent and Clumsy Life in a Borders bargain bin several years ago. I think I made it one page in before I began laughing so hard that I knew reading this book before bed was not a good idea. It’s not the kind of book you read when you’re trying to settle down for the evening. Instead, it’s the kind of book that you want to read (and laugh at) in one sitting because it’s just that funny.
Ever since, I have sought out almost all of Notaro’s other offerings and they’ve been pretty consistent in putting me in the same happy, hilarious state of mind. She’s got a wicked sense of comedic timing and a unique perspective that makes even the most mundane situations laughable. Of course, most of the situations that she finds herself in are about as far from mundane as you can possibly imagine. She’s a magnet for the more bizarre sides of life, to be sure.
Admittedly, however, the funny becomes more subdued the further into Notaro’s oeuvre you travel. More than likely, it stems from the fact that she has a rather predictable (though enjoyable) formulaic style, equal parts satirical, sincere, and self-deprecating. However, I suppose that too much of even a good thing is too much, and after a while the laughter is a little slower to come than it was in previous books. I believe the last one I read prior to this offering was An Idiot Girl’s Christmas: True Tales from the Top of the Naughty List, which I merely borrowed from the library a few years ago and decided that this was enough for me.
For The Idiot Girl and the Flaming Tantrum of Death: Reflections on Revenge, Germophobia, and Laser Hair Removal, the laughter was even longer in coming, which was a bit of a disappointment. I specifically chose this book from my stacks because I knew that I was getting ready to be stuck on an airplane for almost 10 hours straight (Loba Advice: Flying from Chicago to Honolulu is a stupid idea; pick a layover stop on the West Coast the next time). I knew I needed a book that was going to take some of the sting out of being sardined into an airplane seat for that stretch of time, and I had hoped that Notaro would be the writer to do just that.
I’m not saying that this wasn’t a funny collection. It just took a little while for the funny to start coming. However, once it did, I found myself having to close the book a few times to keep myself from laughing so hard that I woke up the gentleman in the seat next to me (although, really, I don’t know why I cared so much…it’s not like he was being mindful of me, what with his arms sprawled all over the middle armrest and his foot constantly slipping over into my space…). There were some very funny moments in this collection; surprisingly, there were also quite a few poignant moments, including an essay about her dog that left me feeling decidedly somber.
Final Verdict: Even though this wasn’t as funny as Notaro’s earlier collections, I do believe I will hang onto this one. It was funny enough that I don’t mind holding onto it. Besides, I own almost all of her other books anyway. What’s another book on the shelf?