A volume of anecdotes, lists, quotes, and jokes seeks to illuminate the complexities of gender politics and romance.
Voice-over artist Martin (A Dangerous Book for Dogs, 2016, etc.) decided to embark on this book because of a brief, abusive marriage that, she writes, “helped me relate to a wide variety of people with sincerity, empathy, and compassion.” Despite that somber spur, however, this is a frequently funny book about male/female typecasting and the relationship challenges everyone faces. “Life is often laughable, even when marked with pathos,” Martin insists, so she encourages readers to laugh at themselves by seeing the kinds of mistakes they make, like public gaffes, spoonerisms, and “bimbo moments.” She starts by breaking down some gender stereotypes—including a standout story about surprising an author by reading his tome on cold fusion overnight before interviewing him—and discussing how everyone can choose a positive attitude toward aging and life’s “stresspools.” Over half of the book is devoted to romantic relationships: everything from understanding emotions and communication failures to signs that a spouse is cheating (“Avoidance of contact, both physical and intellectual”; “Distances himself from you emotionally”; “Stops confiding in you”; “Avoids being alone with you”). Chapters on building empathy, dousing anger, and exploring different types of intimacy are highlights. But the author’s strategy throughout is to deliver lots of information in the form of lists, which can be overwhelming. For instance, one page of signs that an individual is a control freak might well be entertaining and helpful, but seven is far too much. The same goes for extended inventories of male versus female stereotypes and celebrity couples who broke up due to adultery—much of the former is self-evident, and the latter is repetitive. Strings of witticisms and popular sayings about the battle of the sexes and old age have a somewhat generic feel. Overall, the book is an unusual mixture of received wisdom—the sorts of jokes and quotations one might store in the bathroom for an occasional laugh—and serious relationship advice to keep by the bedside for everyday consultation. Those purposes need not necessarily be at odds, but the genre confusion might limit the work’s appeal.
Amusing but uneven reflections on relationships.