This collection of essays on everything from Oprah’s Book Club to the joy of being a new father displays all the qualities that have made Almond’s short stories (The Evil B.B. Chow) and nonfiction (Candyfreak) entertaining. The wicked humor of Dear Oprah features an in-your-face attack on the Savior of Publishing and her book club, followed by equally obsequious apologies, including a gift of trust to her of his baby daughter. A section titled About My Sexual Failure (Not That You Asked) offers brutally honest dissections of his sexual obsessions as well as those of past girlfriends, including chest waxing, fake breasts and masturbating in the family pool. Demagogue Days is a hilarious look at Almond’s experience with Fox News that displays an abiding disgust at current arbiters of cultural and political life in America as well as an enduring empathy for the underdog. But best of all is a beautiful and angry essay on The Failed Prophecy of Kurt Vonnegut (and How It Saved My Life), a look at Vonnegut’s career-long concern over whether mankind would survive its own despicable conduct that serves as a summation of Almond’s personal and literary ethos.
In some 32 short essays on the ridiculousness of modern life, Rivenbark (Bless Your Heart, Tramp; We’re Just Like You, Only Prettier) wanders through Tweenland at the mall, thinking a better name would be “Lil Skanks.” She thinks that the Cruise/Holmes pregnancy has an “indescribably delicious” Rosemary’s Baby feel to it and recalls that Monica Lewinsky hosted a TV dating show–in which she “didn’t get the guy.” Rivenbark riffs on America’s crazier obsessions–the painful but obligatory pilgrimage to Disney World, the new attention to “buttocks cleavage,” coffee makers calling themselves baristas, or those celebrity moms who have “bumps” instead of babies. Rivenbark describes herself as a “slacker mom” and reminds readers to learn something from men–“because no matter how slack a dad is, if he does the least little thing, people gush over him.” This is a hilarious read, perhaps best enjoyed while eating Krispy Kremes with a few girlfriends.