Author: Laura Ingraham
Author's web page: https://www.lauraingraham.com/
Publisher: Threshold / Simon & Schuster
Length: 305 pages
Illustrations: black-and-white photos
Quote: “My culture is depraved, / Not sure it can be saved. / Of Thee I Zing. / Land filled with STDs, / Pants way down to the knees, / Nary a ‘thanks’ or ‘please’ / This is going to sting.”
This is the book in which readers get to know Laura Ingraham, possibly more closely than they wanted. The personality Ingraham reveals in Of Thee I Zing is prone to exaggeration for comic effect, claiming “horror” when what she feels is distaste, and also germ-phobic, paranoid, and just a bit cranky. Also, as admitted in this book, she’s one of those Northerners who settle in Northern Virginia because they think of it as the Republican side of Washington, D.C. They have their merits; they are not and will never be Virginians. This explains Ingraham’s frequent confessions of tactlessness in confronting other people’s tastelessness.
She doesn’t like men who dye their hair. “I had the pleasure of running into an old beau...as his Chestnut Number 5 was being applied. I kicked his foot and announced loudly, ‘Hey, I guess this is where all the girls come’...I walked away then yelled back to him, ‘Once she puts in a few highlights, that is going to look super cute on you!’”
Or men who don’t follow women to their house doors: “Then there are the men who don’t walk you to the door at the end of a date...Once out of the car, I yelled down the street.”
Or waiters who want diners to know that they’re in a posh restaurant that offers a selection of bottled water: “It’s always the waiter’s first question: ‘Still, sparkling...or tap water?’ To this annoying query I always answer: ‘Toilet, please.’”
Real Virginians who play the verbal abuse game play it on a more advanced level than that, after about grade six. Social critics who are really concerned about improving society try to be tactful, subtle, and persuasive. So, the purpose of this book is not to improve society; it's to make us laugh. There’s nothing wrong with that, and I did laugh. If you’re using diaphragm exercises, such as laughing out loud, for pain control, Of Thee I Zing is just what the doctor ordered.
Sometimes the shifts between questions of taste, questions of etiquette, and questions of morality are bewildering, but if you take Of Thee I Zing in what I think is the spirit Ingraham intended, this bewilderment is funny too. On one page she zings the relative popularity of different pop singers: “I don’t care if gazillions of people have watched her...video on YouTube. Two words: it’s free.” Then she moves on to tasteless TV commercials: “I dare you to watch a major sporting event on television without a Viagra ad popping up...Rather than enjoying the rest of the game, [parents] spend time answering questions they didn’t plan on answering...” Then back to taste: “[I]f you are neither a dancer nor a star, you do not qualify to appear on Dancing with the Stars.” Then a moral issue: “[The Showtime channel’s] new show...follows a group of struggling male prostitutes...The New York Times recently described the show as ‘bluntly pornographic’.”
Sometimes you’ll be thinking “Ditto!” and sometimes you’ll be thinking “Uh-oh.” Most of my “Uh-oh” moments had to do with Ingraham’s irrational fears of infection: most specifically, she doesn’t seem to understand that fungi thrive in warm, dark, damp environments, such as sweaty shoes and socks, and die in dry, well-lighted environments, which is why some people don’t get athlete’s foot even if we rest our bare feet on the carpets of people who can’t get rid of it.
Also, she's apparently not the best cook: “The frozen Butterball tastes like a turkey. The organic [turkey] tastes like burnt seagull...most of the organic birds are not prebasted, so the natural juices just race out of the meat.” That's why turkey basters were invented, right?
Now for the “Dittos.” I was chortling, “Ditto! Ditto!” all through essays on maternity consultants, overpriced “home safety analysts,” strollers built to carry children who ought to be walking, overpriced nursery decor, elaborate play dates, overpriced birthday parties, overpriced snacks, parents who let kids kick other people’s seats, “time out” being a comfort not a punishment, parents who don’t mop up baby excretions, overdressed kids, mothers who try to dress like their teenyboppers, potty mouths, repeating people’s names, body piercing, public adjustment of underwear, making meals of free samples in grocery stores, slurping alcohol off someone else’s body (okay, I’m grossed out by the idea of drinking a cleaning product, period), panhandlers whose signs say they’ll work for food but they won’t, dog owners who don’t scoop, public displays of adipose tissue, visible underwear, male fashion victims, tattoos, drivers who failed the parking test but somehow got licensed to drive anyway, silly party invitations, people who drop in before the expected time (or without scheduling a time), graphics cluttering up TV screens, TV in general, Starbucks...that's only the first hundred pages. Read this book in a place where you feel free to chortle.
Of Thee I Zing is new, as Fair Trade Books go, but it's widely available secondhand so I think I can (ethically) post this review now. If you send $5 per copy + $5 per package + $1 per online payment to either address at the bottom of the screen, I'll send $1 to Ingraham or a charity of her choice (still St. Jude's?). If you throw in a copy of The Obama Diaries, you send me $15 and I send Ingraham or her charity $2, because that's how Fair Trade Books work.