It Looked Different on the Model: Epic Tales of Impending Shame and Infamy

After taking my first little nibble of David Sedaris’s work and then binging on everything he’s published, I looked for compilations of autobiographical essays by other well-reputed humorists.  I can’t fathom how “It Looked Different on the Model” got great reviews from readers and critics alike.  Well, maybe I can.  I’m sure Laurie Notaro’s friends got a good laugh when she related these anecdotes at a dinner party.  I didn’t.  Instead I got the sense she’s started making poor decisions in order to generate fodder for her writing rather than finding the humor in organic occurrences.  I visualize her writing as a daredevil’s motorcycle trying to jump from one side of the literary Grand Canyon, located firmly in the state of mundane and pathetic, over the gap to the other side where Sedaris lives, the state of relatable and self-deprecatingly funny.  The author tries too hard, hits the ramp wrong, and crashes and burns.  The sad part is, she almost makes it.  Maybe if she could write without fixating on overeating and criticizing her own appearance.  Maybe if I knew her personally to be a woman with more than a thimble full of self-esteem.  Maybe if she got a little more serious with the editing – tightening the prose, trimming the fat off her punchlines, and pulling the stories together more seamlessly.  Maybe if she learned to tell the difference between irreverent, vulgar, and funny on the one hand and pointlessly mean, gross, and juvenile on the other.  But all the potential in the world can’t save this disappointing publication.  I didn’t giggle once.  I really tried, but even reading the chapters that came closest – the Halloween tale and the dentist-hippie-smack-down segments – I couldn’t force a measly smile or sharp intake of breath.  It looked different in the reviews.

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