I first reserved this book because it was a nominee for best humor book of the year on Goodreads (and it ended up winning!) So when the book arrived at my library, I was expecting a funny book, but when I started reading I discovered that while parts of it were definitely funny and even made me laugh out loud, other parts were more bittersweet.
Really, really bittersweet.
Don’t get me wrong; I definitely enjoyed this book. I enjoyed the stories about Brosh’s dogs, about her family, and about her childhood. I also … well, “enjoyed” isn’t the right word … I was incredibly moved by her stories about what it was like coping with depression. When I first picked up this book, I assumed that it was going to be a traditional humor book and that it was going to be a quick read. It turns out that I was wrong on both counts. It’s definitely worth reading, and it was definitely worth challenging my expectations. You can learn more about the humor and the mood of the book by checking out the blog that inspired it.
You might be asking yourself, “Who’s Fred Stoller, and why does he look kind of familiar?” Well, I’ve known about him for decades, in part because when I was growing up in the 1980’s I watched a LOT of stand-up comedy on cable TV. And as I became familiar with more stand-up comedians, several of them stuck in my mind because of their humor, their voices, or their looks. Fred Stoller stuck in my mind for all of those reasons.
Over the years, I saw him appear on different TV shows, usually in shows that were run by fellow comedians. I had several, “Oh, look! It’s Fred Stoller!” moments when I watched shows like Seinfeld, Norm, and The Drew Carey Show. In more recent years, he resurfaced in my memory as he appeared on different podcasts and as he promoted a movie that was based on a real-life friendship called Fred & Vinnie.
But it never occurred to me until I read this book what it would be like to be … well, I guess “semi-famous” might be the best word for it. What it would be like to have people keep asking you, “Why don’t you become a regular on that show?” or what it would be like to have someone date you because of your IMDB credits.
This book was an enjoyable read, containing funny anecdotes about the big picture (trying to make a career out of a series of jobs spread out over years) and the small picture (trying to explain his career to his perpetually disappointed mother). I also found it an insightful overview about what it’s like to work in television and movies. You can learn more about Fred Stoller in this Huffington Post article about his new book as well as on his website.
The first two books I mentioned were books I read because I heard about them and reserved them through my library system. This last book basically fell into my lap because I was checking it in for a patron and thought … hmmmm … maybe I should read this.
Parts of this book are kind of dry and academic, which is to be expected when it’s a book designed for a specific audience with a narrow scope (You see that? I used a librarian word there!) It contains a lot of advice that is useful for librarians, but more that would have to get into the ear of library administrators in order to do any good because most ordinary librarians don’t have the power to change library policies. A lot of the advice ties into having the library provide a welcoming environment for boys, which might involve changing library policies.
For example, Sullivan recommends allowing eating in designated areas of the library, since patrons are going to eat anyway, and allowing them to eat in one area means that the candy wrappers will wind up in the garbage cans rather than hidden behind the books. FWIW, I agree with this idea in a VERY limited way — for example, I’ll allow eating IF it’s in the program room and IF I’m there to supervise and IF every scrap of food-related garbage goes into the lined/covered trash bag afterwards. However, I’ve heard many horror stories about “designated eating areas” at other libraries, including one at Another Branch Which Shall Not Be Named where patrons were walking into the building with pizza boxes, buckets of chicken, etc. and then leaving garbage everywhere.
He also recommends allowing board and card games in the library, which is something else that some individual libraries or entire library systems have banned at different times. That’s something else that might be influenced by the particular patrons in your neighborhood. Many branches in my system allow patrons to play games (either they allow it officially or they turn a blind eye to it), but I know of at least one branch that banned card games because the teens in their branch got so competitive and loud every time they played. The book details how one library was so fixated on their “no games” rule that they had a patron who was playing chess in the library taken out by the POLICE for failing to comply with library rules. So I think the lesson here is … um … pick your battles?
And then there are even more ideas for making boys welcome at your library …
Hang on. I’m going to stand up on a chair and do WHAT now? Oh, yeah, I could see how that could work. And yet I could also see how that could go very badly very quickly!