Ephemera from the life of a children’s book author.
In her latest book for grown-ups, Rosenthal (Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life, 2005, etc.) again organizes stories of her life into something like a reference book or textbook. The author largely eschews written narrative in favor of a broad smattering of tables, graphs, drawings, photos, a guitar chord progression, a recipe, a dream, a Venn diagram, and more. Section headings like Geography, History, and Math divide and contain these tidbits along with mildly interesting thoughts and anecdotes: a moment's conjecture at who her husband is on the phone with, her faulty interpretation of a magazine article, her decision to leave an unopened packet of honey on the passenger-side floor of her car. One page reads, "When I came back from India, I was absolutely, positively 100% sure I was going to use a lot of turmeric." The book is light; white space abounds. Perhaps aware of this, Rosenthal leaps from the page into her readers’ digital lives, inviting them to text her for various multimedia experiences: three audio renditions of a humming wineglass or a poem read by the deceased poet Kenneth Koch. There is one anomalous short story in the Romance section that, despite its brevity (or because of it), is a moving tale of life, love, and anagrams. Readers who approach this book as a collection of thought experiments will find intermittent inspiration. Photos of two ice cubes—one from the waters of Lake Michigan, the other containing tea from a restaurant—poignantly commemorate moments with her children, and in “The Piñata Experiment,” the author instructs the reader to hang a candy-filled piñata near a baseball field and wait for the object's discovery by Little Leaguers serendipitously wielding baseball bats.
Long on inventiveness but short on substance.