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by Laura Pedersen

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-63152-737-1
Publisher: She Writes Press

A comic writer offers a collection of merriment.

Former New York Times columnist, essayist, comedian, and writer for the Joan Rivers Show, Pedersen gathers a series of short essays, some autobiographical, some cultural commentary, some philosophical, and all entertaining. In a section on “Quadrupeds,” she expounds on the vagaries of dogs (and occasionally cats); “Bipeds” recalls growing up in Buffalo, New York, in the 1970s; “Estrogen-Americans” considers the plight and power of women (“Does God Have a Woman Problem?” she slyly asks); “Human Kind” takes on overarching questions about art, lying, morality, and the good life. Although Pedersen grew up in a region where “Catholicism seeped into the warp and woof of everyone’s daily life,” she and her family were Unitarian Universalists, which she characterizes as not quite a religion: “we celebrate the two big Christian holidays along with hosting a Passover Seder,” she explains. “The Easter sermon tends to view the resurrection more through the lens of spring and battling greenhouse gasses.” Among a list of very funny Unitarian haiku is this one: “What is the question / to which war is the answer? / Make bumper stickers.” When the author lived in Manhattan (“I spent a number of years on Wall Street valuing things,” she writes about working on the Stock Exchange), she noted that subway delays were so prevalent “that straphangers now share a credo with Unitarian Universalists: Your guess is as good as mine.” Besides skewering consumerism (“Enough Is Enough”), discrimination against women in fields from science to comedy writing, and pretension in general, Pedersen offers a lovely homage to her father, who “possessed a magic power to make humans happy,” and some insightful reflections on community, responsibility, and art. Art’s message, she writes, “is no different from that of a good religion, that lives other than our own have value.”

A pleasing combination of cheer, diversion, and incisiveness.