Thursday, January 19, 2012

It Probably Had a Bump on the Model

There’s this great little second hand store on Dale Mabry back in Tampa called “New to You,” and I feel like that pretty much sums up my history with nonfiction. There’s this professor at UCF who insists that nonfiction is this great new genre—this avant garde literary frontier—and maybe she’s right. Maybe it’s sort of like the Reality TV version of cable, where we can’t help but pick up a memoir the way we flip the television stations to MTV, or Bravo, or Fox, or (etc., etc.)

Or maybe it’s just always been there and I’m just now picking it up, the way just the other day I tried espresso for the first time and that night (sometime between 2 and 3 in the morning) I cleaned and rearranged my entire room (I had been meaning to get around to it, but a delicious cup—emphasis on delicious here; I had no idea it would be so tasty—but a delicious cup later, I was all of a sudden Superman). I’ve known about espresso for a long time, but I never got around to trying it until I went to dinner with Lorri Lores, this magnificent magical realism writer, and her husband offered me some after dessert. Maybe nonfiction is just new to me.

But one way or another, someone recommended I read It Looked Different on the Model, a collection of linked essays, by Laurie Notaro. And over the winter break, I did! Get a load of this:

It was a lovely evening, a gathering of grad students and their spouses, significant others, and partners (you have to say all three). The sun was letting go of the brightest part of the day and people were chatting and having conversation when I looked up and saw a young woman several feet away ease the strap of her top down—like she was in a dirty dressing room at Ross—pull her arm through it, and then bring her boob out. Uncovered. Exposed. Unabashed. Then it flopped like a fish and hung loosely, like it had a hook through it, while she had a conversation with two other people. There it remained, exposed to the elements and accessible to anyone who needed to wipe their hands.
I don’t know where the baby was. It wasn’t on her, that’s for sure. I don’t know if the baby ever came in for a landing or what. The baby was not in the general vicinity when the incident began. Maybe the baby had a GPS device implanted and this was all prep work, but I think it would have been more considerate if she had a visual of the baby before I had a visual of her. And the boob sat there, and sat there, and sat there. It actually behaved very quietly for the ten minutes it was left to roam free in my field of vision before I could talk to someone else and face a different direction.

That was Laurie experiencing a super awkward moment at a party in Oregon. She’s hilarious. A real lighthearted read.

But, that’s sort of the thing—I thought perhaps it was a little bit too lighthearted. The entire book is funny moment after funny moment after funny moment. So much so that I think they started to lose their punch.

Maybe it’s because I gravitate towards the stand up shows of Margaret Cho, or because I devoured Kathy Griffin’s memoir Official Book Club Selection because it was equally personal and catty, but I felt like Notaro’s book didn’t have the meat of a strong piece. (My thesis director would insist that what’s she’s lacking in is conflict.) It’s kind of like watching a reality TV show—you know you’re in for a scandalous ride, but you’re not really leaving with anything of value once the show is over. That’s how I would describe Notaro’s latest essay collection out of a long line of essay collections. It’s only fairly awesome.

But, of course, maybe that’s the formula. She is, after all, a best selling author. Flip side though, Snooki does make thousands per episode she does of Jersey Shore.

Does that make her Emmy worthy?

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