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Monday, June 13, 2011

I'm Kind of a Big Deal and Other Delusions of Adequacy

By Stefanie Wilder-Taylor
New York, Gallery Books, 2011
206 pages    Non-Fiction Essays

Stefanie Wilder-Taylor has been a waitress, a limousine driver, a would-be dating show contestant, a joke writer for television shows, and now is an author of short, humorous essays about her life and her career. I’m Kind of a Big Deal is her third such book. Part memoir, part stand-up act, part sitcom set-up, Wilder-Taylor entertains with short pithy stories about how she almost, but not quite, became something funny, famous, influential, or rich.  A few of the essays are poignant—particularly the essay about her alcoholism and the essay about her father, who used to be “kind of a big deal.” Many are self-deprecating. Most are funny.

The funniest is a letter written to Angelina Jolie following the birth of her twins. Wilder-Taylor has three young daughters including twins, and the letter is a send-up of the differences in the parenting styles of the two families based mostly on Jolie’s ability to afford nannies, housekeepers, and other help. I remember watching an interview with Sarah Jessica Parker when the interviewer remarked about how wonderful she looked following the birth of her son. Parker reminded the interviewer that she was just like all new mothers, except that she had the money to hire a trainer and lots of child care.

I'm Kind of a Big Deal stops being funny when Wilder-Tayler suggests that all her searching for a modicum of fame in the killer atmosphere of Los Angeles had resulted in her becoming an alcoholic. According to a New York Times article, she indicated that drinking became the way she coped with parenting and the other aspects of daily life.  She says, “It seems to be that because I worked so hard to avoid the simple lows, I inadvertently couldn’t experience the simple highs. Now (as a recovering alcoholic) I get them all. And it’s mostly good. The other night I was playing a rousing game of Candy Land with Elby when I realized something: I was always the sort of mom who would be down for a game with the kids but I’d do it knowing that there was an end point and that end point included an adult beverage. All of a sudden I got it: Candy Land is the point.” I was glad that I found the Times article and her website, because it helped me identify with her in ways that her book didn't. I would encourage you to read the article to help you understand Wilder-Taylor better.

Last week we went to see comedian Jerry Seinfeld in Grand Rapids MI. He was marvelous. I was laughing so hard that I was crying and couldn’t catch my breath. In April for my birthday, I saw David Sedaris in Kalamazoo. I had a similar experience. He had one routine about visiting Beijing that had everyone rolling in the aisles and vowing to never visit Beijing. In both cases, both men have such ironic views on life, we laugh at what we know. We see our own humanity in their stories.  And here is my complaint about I’m Kind of a Big Deal. We get too few glimpses of Wilder-Taylor’s humanity. The Kirkus reviewer reflects this opinion: “Wilder-Taylor's often self-deprecating candor is the book’s greatest strength, but also its greatest weakness. While she freely provides gossipy tidbits about her life and adventures, her capacity to move beyond the superficially funny into the meaningfully humorous is lacking.”

I never got to the “rolling in the aisles” point with I’m Kind of a Big Deal, but I was amused. I will probably give the book to my daughters-in-law to read as they sit on the beach watching the children play in the water at Lake Michigan next week. It is a book that can be read in short spurts without a lot of caring involved.

I received the book as part of a blog tour. It hit the bookstores last week.

Stefanie Wilder-Taylor’s website: http://stefaniewildertaylor.com/  These are her observations about parenthood that will probably be her next book. They are very funny by the way.

The New York Times article about Wilder-Taylor: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/16/fashion/16drunk.html

2 comments:

Jennifer O. said...

Hm. I felt the same way about Sometimes I Feel Like a Nut. It was hilarious, and there were some poignant moments, but the author didn't let the reader get close enough to her. The best kind of humor is that which shatters myth, that bonds people in the knowledge that we all have the same fears and worries, and that somehow we'll all come out of it in one piece. The far inferior type of humor is the one that only seeks in making us laugh without reaching any great sort of understanding.

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