Adventures with the Idiot Girl

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What do Trump hotel toiletries, chocolate Twizzlers and hilarious Eugene anecdotes have in common?

They were all given away as prizes from humor writer Laurie Notaro to an expectant crowd on Tuesday at Powell’s City of Books. Portland, which Notaro claims to be her favorite town, was the third stop on her tour in promotion of her latest book, The Idiot Girl and the Flaming Tantrum of Death: Reflections on Revenge, Germophobia and Laser Hair Removal.

In addition to answering questions and telling stories about living in Eugene, Notaro kept the audience laughing as she read a section of her David Sedaris-esque book of essays. Her subjects range from selling her house in Phoenix to moving to Eugene to the folly of vacationing with a hyperactive imagination.

With her conversational tone and penchant for hyperbole, reading Notaro’s book is almost like spending the afternoon with a loquacious friend who loves food, envies Angelina Jolie’s beauty and struggles with getting older.

Impregnated with Discovery Channel horror stories of viruses and parasites, Notaro has birthed a paranoia that causes her to carry bird-flu masks in her purse. Luckily, she locates humor in such situations and mines such follies as birds bombing her food at the Portland Indian Festival to her ever-expanding waistband as material for charming personal essays. Notaro also spices her prose with amusing banter, usually between her husband and herself.

My personal favorite from Idiot Girl is the satiric essay on the death of the catchphrase “It’s all good.” This tongue-in-cheek essay shows an intelligence that contradicts the title of the book and a rare but wonderfully vivid imagination.

Other critics have praised Notaro for her frequent use of self-depreciating remarks, but I felt they detracted from her work. Our society encourages women to concentrate on their physical flaws unless they’re able to rival Angelina Jolie in a beauty contest. By making herself sound like an obese bearded woman, she plays into our society’s unrealistic expectations of Hollywood ideals.

I was able to see first-hand that she is, in fact, attractive in her own right, with curly brown hair, an average build and trendy black-rimmed glasses.

Overall, The Idiot Girl and the Flaming Tantrum of Death is a quick, enjoyable read. The effectiveness of any joke largely depends on the comedian’s delivery and any comic writer is immediately at a disadvantage since they’re forced to rely on the reader to set the pace and visualize the event.

Yet, there were several occasions were I found myself laughing out loud at Notaro’s The Idiot Girl. The book also includes a very well written, emotional essay that brought me to tears. This is a great book to read on vacation or give as a gift to a mother with a summer birthday who doesn’t mind a little profanity.

The Idiot Girl and the Flaming Tantrum of Death: Reflections on Revenge, Germophobia and Laser Hair RemovalLaurie Notaro???1/2

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