January 8th, 2012

reading, creative

Review: "Motherhood: The Second Oldest Profession"

Motherhood: The Second Oldest ProfessionMotherhood: The Second Oldest Profession by Erma Bombeck

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Erma Bombeck, the beloved newspaper columnist who wrote about the foibles of motherhood, expanded upon her familiar territory in "Motherhood: The Second Oldest Profession." The result is a work that, though familiar-sounding, delves deeper and sometimes darker than her newspaper columns did.

For example, Bombeck reruns one of her most popular columns, a paean to the mothers of disabled children, answering it with a new companion piece where the mother of a disabled child criticizes the original column, calling it naive and speaking about the realities of her life. In another piece, Bombeck expands upon a newspaper column where she had joked about leaving behind letters for each of her children to tell them she'd loved them best. In "Motherhood," the expanded piece takes place at the mother's funeral, as each of the children reads his or her letter privately. The resulting work takes on a more serious, almost ponderous import.

In the pages of "Motherhood," Bombeck shows that she is capable of contemplating more than just the whereabouts of wayward socks disappeared from the dryer. While these pieces still evince her trademark wit, they go beyond classic Bombeck, exploring the deeper side of motherhood.



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reading, creative

Review: "Forever, Erma"

Forever, Erma: Best-Loved Writing from America's Favorite HumoristForever, Erma: Best-Loved Writing from America's Favorite Humorist by Erma Bombeck

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


One of my favorite humorists of all time, Erma Bombeck ruled the newspaper pages, inspiring and amusing readers with her entertaining observations about the nature of motherhood. "Forever, Erma" was a labor of love: a posthumous collection featuring the most loved Bombeck columns, as well as a smattering of lesser known pieces and a chapter of tributes from colleagues, friends and family. For those unfamiliar with Bombeck's work, it's a good introduction. For those, like myself, who have loved her work for years, the book is both a delight and a revelation.

Bombeck's columns elevate the trivial moments of motherhood: mining them for both humor and for meaning. While, on the surface, she may simply be sharing a story about a difficult child, she is also making a then-revolutionary statement: "I'm not a perfect mother or wife, and that's OK." She wrote such columns years before comedian Roseanne Barr introduced the idea of a sublimely flawed family; and her columns predated by decades the first by humorist Dave Barry, who explores similar territory from a father's point of view. Indeed, Bombeck was one of the first to discount such unrealistic role models as TV's Donna Reed and to air her dirty laundry (both figurative and literal) in print.

Such insights won her legions of fans -- mothers and children, wives and husbands -- and this book does a good job of illustrating why.



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