Wednesday, February 9, 2011

House of Nice Neurotic Guys

Conversationally pleasant writing? 
Seems like a sweet, smart guy? 
Would welcome him as a colleague or neighbor or bud?  Check.

And also:
WAAAAAY Too Much Information?
David Sedaris's heir apparent?

It's somewhat a shame that David Ellis Dickerson's publishers insisted on using a quote comparing the dueling Daves to sell this memoir.  That's a mighty high bar.  Trading on their This American Life connection, no doubt, but did the label not realize that ranking him against one of the most edgy-yet-commercially-popular humorists in the current English-speaking world might beg negative comparisons?

So what is this book?  A memoir of Dave D.'s sojourn as a Hallmark card writer, and of his struggle to move beyond the Christian Fundamentalist doctrines that he outgrows during this period in his life.  Basically, that's about it.

Fun parts: 
- Inside scoop on the mind-numbingly audience-specific business of crafting greeting cards, one that quite reliably morphs creatives into OCD/neurotic/hollow husks of their formerly vibrant selves. 
- Detailed descriptions of Dickerson's card-writing process: intrinsically intriguing for writers and teachers of writing.  Thanks, Dave.
- Prose style that reads like listening to a particularly witty raconteur of a pal expounding on his quotidian trials and triumphs: a pleasant enough way to spend treadmill time.

Not so fun:
Specific details on every sex act he's ever indulged in or rejected or attempted unsuccessfully or felt guilty about: as aforementioned... WAY TMI.

Once again, the confused psychological territory of the memoir offers itself to our scrutiny.  Is it a vehicle for writers' auto-analysis or is it an edifying entertainment for readers? 

Anyhoo... Action Jump Starts:
* Creative Sparks: Dickerson invokes Saint Vitus, patron of comedians.  Who will you pick to be your own patron saint, muse, or patronus? OR
* Dickerson creates an hilarious Top 10 List which gets butchered by editors at Hallmark, rendering it entirely un-funny. Choose your favorite topic and create 5 ideas for top 10 lists that could be hilarious.  Then go ahead and make them happen.
* Connection: Dickerson, upon moving to St. Louis, MO from Tuscon, AZ, checks out churches in search of renewed faith and social connection.  His experiences inspired me to check out what's happening here.  I will research our local houses of Christian worship and visit one for this Sunday's service.
* Online Inquiry: Puzzler... This guy's a cryptic crossword puzzle creator, and his expansive lexicon conjured a grin or two.  Look up his puzzles online and do one, plus take a look at what he's been doing recently on This American Life.
* Online Action: I can't think of one for this book, so I attempted to compensate with three creative sparks. If you come up with one, please do add it in the comments and I'll revise...

My actions: Pick a patronus AND create 5 funny Top-10 memes, complete one, and offer them all to The Broke and The Bookish for future blog hops.

Just the Jist List
Title: House of Cards
Author: David Ellis Dickerson
Genre(s): memoir
Book's Website: (a division of check.)
Author's Website:
Year Published: 2009
Pages: 369
When was it read? January 17 and 18, 2011
Perfect Matches: Aspiring greeting card writers, This American Life aficionados, the frankly frank, writers and teachers-of-writing interested in craft/process for commercial forms
Perfect Timing: Fundamentalist Christians reconsidering their faith - moving toward more liberal worldviews, or anyone leaving a hometown for the first time in their late 20's
Perfect NOT: anyone uncomfortable with graphic sexual references, anyone who is a devout Fundamentalist Christian, anyone who doesn't want to be disillusioned about Hallmark cards
Rating (1-5): **
Why? It's a diversion, and for anybody who ever buys cards, instructive.  Other than that?
Get it:  (again - I'm not currently affiliated w/the stores below, just hoping to make access easy for you - the links below are direct to the book)


p.s. Mom: TMI = Too Much Information.


Dana KBS said...

I'm ever-so-glad that you didn't suggest "sharing all your intimate sexual secrets and/or discomforts" as the internet action.

Perhaps one could generalize a bit from Dave not-Sedaris's example: be more forthright?

Anonymous said...

As a teacher of writing, this sounds like it might be worth adding it to my wishlist--writing greeting cards would be a good exercise for writing in a number of ways: how to be concise, how to appeal to certain audiences or very general ones, how to be funny or touching in a limited space. Not teachable, but maybe worth a place on my shelf. Thanks for the tip!

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