The Christmas clock is ticking away... and you know who you are, you last
minute gift-procrastinators, you. Oh yes, some of you are suffering from Mall
Anxiety or Fear of Shopping or even just plain Scrooge-like mindset. Never
fear, Auntie M is here with a few book titles to ease that pain.
The subject is Little Books. Stocking-stuffers, if you will. The kind where
you pick them up and go, "Oh, how cuuute!!" Okay -- so a few of them are
slightly larger. Take it up with Santa, not me.
Little Books seem to multiply during the holiday season, perhaps because so
many of them have "Christmas" in the title. Here's The Christmas
Conversation Piece: Creative Questions to Illuminate the Holidays
Nicholaus and Paul Lowrie (Ballantine, $10 hard), thought-provoking topics to
ponder and discuss after the gifts are opened. The Christmas Tree
Julie Salamon (Random House, $12.95 hard) is a gentle tale of an orphan girl
(aren't they always orphans?) whose love for a tree is carried throughout her
life. It is sentimental without being too treacly, though I did tear up at the
end. And there always seems to be books about cats, such as The Historical
by Norton with Peter Gethers and Norman Stiles (Fawcett, $10 hard) is
really cuuuute -- whimsical pen-and-ink sketches of famous feline pets; the
back features a bespectacled "Jerry Garcia's cat."
If it's not Christmas or cats in the little book, it's got to be quotes. You
know -- those smarmy inspirational collections. No shortage of those -- The
Rich Are Different compiled by Jon Winkour (Pantheon, $20 hard) will
definitely make your wallet lighter as it imparts humorous anecdotes about
those who can better afford the price of this book. Frankly, My Dear by
Katherine and Richard Greene (Fireside, $9 paper) gathers insults and
one-liners for just about any occasion, some quite memorable. There are many
such titles; this is one of the better ones.
Fill in the blanks and make up your own title: ________ Who Hate ______
or Why _______ Are Better Than Men
. I hate these kind of books. I
think they're a waste of time and publishing. Lump Marnie Winston-Macauley's
Men We Love To Hate
(Andrews & McMeel, $4.95 paper) and Manspeak
(Andrews & McMeel, $5.95 paper) fall in that category. Do we really
need more books like this? I preferred the surprisingly less vacuous 101
Ways to Flirt
by Susan Rabin (Plume, $9.95 paper), which wrapped a lot of
common-sense advice in a deceptively fluffy package.
Pardon the pun, but here's one for the books! 365 Ways to Simplify Your
Work Life by Odette Pollar (Dearborn, $8.95 paper). Of course you have to
find the time to read these little time-saving gems and in order to do
so you may need 1002 Ways to Waste Your Working Time by The Diagram
Group, (St. Martin's Press, $9.95 paper). 1002 Ways is actually quite
funny, rather thick, and packed with graphics -- one of the best in the batch
Thumbs up for What's Right About America
by Sam Johnson and Chris
Marcil (Anchor, $9.95 paper) Don't let the jingoistic title fool you: This book
is a hilarious no-brainer by the guys who did Beavis & Butt-Head: This
Book Sucks. #
477: Our belief that any foreigner understands English if
spoken loudly enough.
I laughed aloud at it, as I did for Queer Baby
Names: A Completely Irreverent Guide to Naming Your Lesbian/Gay Tot
Matthew Rettenmund and Jaye Zimet (St. Martin's Griffin, $7.95 paper), even
though I wondered about the dichotomy that allows us to laugh at a cultural
sub-group only if they're making fun of themselves.
Of course, Chuck
Shepherd's The Concrete Enema and Other News of the Weird Classics
(Andrews and McMeel, $6.95 paper) has no such compunctions, as this esoteric
collection of oddball news items attests -- Shepherd makes fun of everyone.
This is bathroom reading at its best. The Chronicle
's executive stall
boasts a copy.
The Little Blues Book
by Brian Robertson (Algonquin, $9.95 paper)
boasts "illustrations by R. Crumb," reason enough for me to pick it up.
However, this is not new
art -- if you've seen Crumb's enormously
popular Heroes of the Blues trading cards, you've seen these wonderful, color
portraits of essential blues players like Memphis Minnie and Peetie Wheatstraw.
Robertson, a Sixth Street musician, gathered text culled from lines and verses
of blues songs -- little bits of barroom wisdom, smoky sentiments, and whiskey
thoughts -- and packaged it neatly with Crumb's art, but there's something a
little fatuous about this book: I thought that Robertson and Crumb had
collaborated and looked forward to that, so I was a bit disappointed.
Being a fan of bad pop culture, I picked up Hollywood Hi-Fi: Over 100 of
the Most Outrageous Celebrity Recordings Ever! by George Gimarc and Pat
Reeder (St. Martin's Griffin, $14.95 paper). Dallas resident Gimarc is author
of Punk Diary 1970-79 and a fan of bad pop culture himself -- no
surprise that he could dig up an album recorded by Seventies gossip columnist
Rona Barrett. Rona Barrett, fer chrissakes! It's not enough to read
about Jerry Mathers or Regis Philbin behind the mike, here's Sissy Spacek!
George Goober Lindsey! The cast of Hogan's Heroes -- singing!!!!
Sorry, I digress, but you'll have to excuse me: They're so cute I couldn't
resist. -- Margaret Moser