Thursday, September 29, 2016

Book Report: Eat Drink and Remarry, by Margo Howard

Margo Howard
Depressing affairs of state (we made a punny, get it?) and the office of Douglas County Clerk of the District Court John Friend have conspired to make us tardy in handing in our book report on Eat, Drink and Remarry.
     After noticing a tweet we sent about something Howard covered in her book (She follows @AKSARBENT) she offered to send us a copy, which was on our reading list anyway. We declined, not because we can't be bought (and cheaply), but because reading a library copy already cheated Howard out of a royalty and we weren't going to make the situation any worse. (Howard hardly needs the dough, but still...)
     We thought the book would be a madcap, irreverent romp through Howard's four marriages, but the breakup of any marriage, no matter how civil, and especially when children are involved, is never a frivolous thing and Howard (at the end of the day) is a serious person, not a Kardashian, though she probably does get more fun out of life than you do. (Also, she doesn't write endless, run-on sentences, like we do.)
     Her books aren't like her daily flow of witty, pitiless twitter comments (@Margoandhow), although in either she is as likely to wickedly mock herself as anyone else.
     Consider her marital memoir more of a "Here's the chronicle of my three divorces and my cool analysis of what I did wrong so you don't have to go through the same thing, toots."
     AKSARBENT's mom, who also went through three marriages before finding "Mr. Right #4," could have benefited from the counsel, but she was learning about marriage via the school of hard knocks a few years earlier than Ms. Howard.
     We think you should get Eat, Drink and Remarry before you read one more weightless, ghost-written-by-a-hack, self-serving celebrity memoir filled with numbskull name-dropping and contrived, cliched and peekaboo sexual titillation.
     (Howard, who was once baby-sat by Liz Taylor, can drop names too, but unlike most well-known people who flog books about themselves, she is a crackerjack writer.)
She also has experience in marital woes as a (retired) popular advice columnist who routinely sprinkled her answers with entertaining and witty snark while somehow managing to mock neither the advice seeker nor the problem before offering a workable solution, when possible.
     Even Howard's more successful mother, Ann Landers, didn't usually pull off as much flair as her daughter — or Miss Manners' Judith Martin, for that matter — regularly mustered in her answers. (The obvious retort to any idiot who would accuse Howard of being the mere beneficiary of nepotism would be: "Why don't you try actually reading her stuff, fool, and you'll realize that talent often runs in families.")
     In the book, Howard addressed that baseless charge of nepotism made when she worked as a columnist for a Chicago paper that competed with the one for which her mother worked, explaining that pedigree never works in journalism. This is absolutely true: readers don't care to whom you're related. If you don't have the chops, they won't read you and that's a fact, Jack.
     As for the book's sober wisdom, we'll leave you with this particularly insightful excerpt, though we could have chosen half a dozen others. (The excerpt probably exceeds the 75-word review limit, but Howard is not the litigious type, as long as you don't push her too far.)
     Though I may not have been aware of what I was doing, I had put myself through the test of deciding when enough is enough. Over the years countless readers wrote to me, asking, in essence, "How do you know when things are unfixable, and how do you know when enough is enough?" All marriages, certainly, involve putting up with things you wish were different, making allowances and figuring out where irritants fit on the importance scale. Sometimes a rocky marriage can be repaired, and sometimes it can't. I think a person knows when it's not worth trying anymore if, in the dark of night, they just know that anything would be better than what's going on. Making that determination is not unlike the Supreme Court decision regarding pornography: you may not be able to define it, but you know it when you see it.

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