Thursday, January 22, 2015

Book Review: Life's Little Destruction Book

A Fair Trade Book

Title: Life’s Little Destruction Book
Author: Charles Sherwood Dane
Date: 1992
Publisher: Stonesong Press
ISBN: 0-312-92927-7
Length: pages not numbered
Quote: “Call friends during the Super Bowl to talk out your problems.”
In the early 1990s a pocket-sized paperback book called Life’s Little Instruction Book, full of one-line pious thoughts and reminders to do good deeds, was a popular gift item. Life’s Little Destruction Book was the parody. It contains 512 one-line descriptions of behavior you can probably pat yourself on the back for not indulging in.
That's probably enough to tell you whether you want this book or not. Merely in order to expand this review to a reasonable length, I’ll say that only about 500 of these one-liners describe behavior I’d call Truly Obnoxious. Nobody sniffles for pleasure or profit, so “Sniffle a lot” does not quite belong on the same list with things like “Take more than ten items to the express checkout line” or “Borrow a book and dog-ear the pages.” Have an alias and the IDs to prove it” may be illegal, but it’s not obnoxious. “Leave papers in the copier” and “Step on your dance partner’s foot” are things it’s hard to imagine anyone planning to do.
“Open the casket for one last look” is a double-edged line. It’s a cultural thing. At least, if you don’t belong to a subculture that expects the deceased to be visible at the funeral, you’re not among the people expected to drop a last kiss on the cold dead face; count your blessings. But a casket is a little box meant to sit on a stand holding letters written by your true love’s hand. A coffin is a coffin. Calling a coffin a casket is part of the set of abuses of the English language that were created by people who couldn’t deal with the reality of death, like calling a graveyard a “memorial garden.” If you don’t belong to a subculture that expects you to misuse words in this annoying way, these misuses of words are obnoxious.
“Chew ice cubes” seems to me a great deal less obnoxious than either sweating into someone else’s furniture or demanding that they turn up the air conditioning (which is probably already turned up as high as it goes), or, for that matter, wasting ice cubes. Fretting about the fact that someone else can still chew ice cubes without pain, as most of us middle-aged people with tooth fillings cannot, can easily become obnoxious. As we get older we need to stifle those feelings of envy.
“Serve wine” is a Truly Obnoxious mannerism, all right, but it needed to be mentioned only once. No refinements make drunkenness anything but obnoxious.
Dane also includes “Use ‘like’ at the end of sentences, like,” which may need historical explanation. Once upon a time, when Dane and I were young, using “like” at either the end or the beginning of sentences was a fad among the “cool” crowds at some schools during some years. Some people who went to those schools also seemed to believe that they were cooler than we were. Like, okay, people I knew used “like” at the beginnings of sentences, but why is Dane showing his insecurity about this now? Even in 1992, did he know anyone who still used “like” as an interjection, and if so, didn’t that person still say “far out” and “groovy”?  With this he had a problem? Like that’s crazy, maaan...
Anyway, this book contains at least 500 things most of us can reasonably feel superior to people who do: “Don’t shovel snow from your side­walk.” “Forget the pooper scooper.” “Drink your roommate’s last beer.” Like, you’re not the total jerk that you might feel yourself to be after realizing how seldom you think of doing any of the little niceties in Life’s Little Instruction Book. Like that was groovy, maaaan....Or at least, if you didn’t need Life’s Little Destruction Book, someone else out there does. This is a book to pass along. Small size and short independent one-page sections make it a good choice for anyone who's in the hospital and can safely laugh out loud.

Life's Little Destruction Book is not hard to find. In real life I'd charge local shoppers less than $5; online, $5 for the book and $5 for shipping is our minimum, although we can consolidate the shipping charges (you pay only $5 for as many books or other things as we ship in one package. You may find a better price online for this almost greeting-card-sized book, but so far as I know nobody else is offering Dane one-tenth of the price for which they sell his work, which means he (or his favorite charity) gets a dollar per copy of this book you buy here.