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by Merrill Markoe

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-670-85332-1
Publisher: Viking

A former head writer for ``Late Night with David Letterman'' satirizes popular ``happiness materials'' (books, calendars, etc.) with her own entertaining (self-) investigations. Markoe (What the Dogs Have Taught Me, not reviewed) treads somewhere between the absurdism of Dave Barry and the intricacies of Henry Alford, with her own L.A. female spin. Each of her 33 brief chapters begins with a ``happiness hint,'' followed by her own efforts to follow the advice. So ``extend a social invitation to someone you've always been afraid to approach'' leads, natch, to dinner—courtesy of a TV Guide assignment—with the famous-chested Fabio, who bravely annotates his publicity photos for Markoe. Following the counsel of doyenne Martha Stewart on selecting a party theme, the author determines that, given her chaotic table settings and decorations, her theme should be ``the breakup of the Soviet Union.'' Deciding to take a new class, Markoe ends up at a session for would-be dominatrixes (``I realize I'm not in Comp. Lit. anymore''). Her muse guides her through a Medieval Times dinner, a meditation on pets, a close analysis of answering machine messages, and a visit with a psychic interior decorator. Markoe's targets are within the safe maw of mainstream pop culture; only occasionally does she exhibit real bite: when analyzing Madonna's book Sex, she tags la Ciccone as ``the world's first self-employed centerfold,'' and after going to see the play The Real Live Brady Bunch, she observes, ``All that binds us is shared dopey media experience.'' Well, that's a good reason to make fun of it, and for Markoe to try harder when a few efforts—like a satire on the Amy Fisher movies and a tour of movie star homes—go limp. Chuckleworthy in small doses—and a strong argument for caution. (Author tour)