In the New York Times Book Review, Judith Newman reviews Ian Frazier’s laugh-out-loud funny book, The Cursing Mommy’s Book of Days — the year-long diary of the fictional character he made famous in his New Yorker pieces. Frazier’s character writes a local advice column, conveying helpful household hints that somehow always produce catastrophes for her instead, which she then generally blames on … the Bush administration.
Demonstrating the proper use of a hammock, she becomes entangled as it spins in one direction and then another, finally depositing her in a clump on the ground — which she blames on the eff’n goddamn hammock lobbyists who “pushed this goddamn hazardous hammock through Congress with the help of the Bush administration.” Explaining the use of a new travel suitcase with multiple compartments and zippers, she gets caught in the zippers, ultimately destroys the bag — and blames it on the eff’n Bush administration, “when suitcases in this country started going to shit!” Early in the year, the Cursing Mommy’s book club is reading Why the Bush Administration REALLY Sucks, and she records in her diary that:
“Gail had suggested the group read it, and I had seconded the suggestion, despite some of the other book group members saying that the subject is somewhat out of date. Gail replied that we’ve read other books with the same basic theme and always enjoyed them, but there were so many that we never had time to get to this particular book … In book group, we believe it is the responsibility of each and every citizen to keep herself informed.”
Newman describes the Cursing Mommy as “a comic-strip heroine for the chattering classes” — someone who “can’t help telling the truth as she sees it,” and “her truths are our truths.” Newman praises Frazier as a humorist who does “more than make us laugh,” imbuing his book with “serious intent” — to show us that (in Newman’s words) it is “far better, and funnier, to rage against these [little] things than the things we can’t control, which is just about everything.”
I think Newman mistakes the nature of Frazier’s “serious intent,” and the book is funnier than she realizes. Imagine if the Cursing Mommy were president — proposing panaceas such as “stimulus” or “investments” or “green jobs,” each one exploding like a cigar from the Acme Company, and blaming each failure on the eff’n Bush administration. The surest sign of success of Frazier’s satire is that the reviewer for the New York Times thinks it is a heroic portrait of someone like herself.