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Just in case anyone is tempted to start taking Erma Bombeck for granted, the spring lists offer a variety of lesser lights in the Bombeck vein--Teresa Bloomingdale (p. 121), Shirley Lueth (below), and these 60-some examples of Gray's newspaper-column output. As with Lueth, Gray's basic joke is herself as ""dense."" She can't fill out her IRS forms (even moving that stick-on label flummoxes her); she can't use a gas pump; and ""one look at a paper that starts with 'Witnesseth' is like plunging into a six-foot snowdrift."" A few of Gray's muddles are mildly amusing: trying to deal with--or even distinguish among--those sneaky tropical fruits (bad times with a mango, ""traumatic"" ones with a pomegranate); staring down motel gadgets and shady-hotel leer artists; encountering her first electric typewriter. More often, unfortunately, the problems here are familiar, bland, or contrived: too many alternatives at the supermarket, too many paint-color options, over-complicated forms, annoying jargon, daylight saving time (back or forward?), dieting, the scarcity of plain white sheets, unappealing natural foods, bothersome phone calls, car repairs, etc., etc. Only in a few cases, when Gray allows her whimsy to head her away from the earthbound, does the humor become more than cheerfully obvious: there's a nice diatribe about travel agents, with a fantasy of Henry Kissinger stymied by the regulations and options (""There will be a considerable savings in the fare if he gets peace between Egypt and Israel""); most fetching of all is a dotty anxiety-attack about geography. (""Take Rhode Island, for instance. Rhode Island has moved considerably to the right of where it used to be. . . ."") And Gray's limited cast of characters--only the vaguest references to children and (ex-)husband--makes her an uncongenial choice for book-length compilation. Harmless, likable, but smile-worthy at best.

Pub Date: April 18th, 1984
Publisher: Atheneum