I read the Washington Post when the work day is slow. Someone monitors my computer, so I try to look like I’m keeping up with current events. But, if Someone were to look a little further, they’d see that instead of reading the pressing news, I’ve read the last week’s worth of Alexandra Petri (Pea-Try) columns.
Petri’s book, A Field Guide to Awkward Silences, like her column, is not “pressing news.” And I’m glad. I wouldn’t have enjoyed it much if it was.
A Field Guide is a composite of stories from Petri’s life in which she manages to comment on and make fun of too many things and people to list. Dogs, for instance. But mostly she makes fun of herself.
Petri begins with a chapter on the different ways she has purposely failed, or tried to fail, and what she’s learned from them:
“There is an art…to flopping. You can’t just be bad. Half the art is knowing how to go too far.”
She not only learned about flopping from the experiences, but she also learned about people:
“If there is one thing I’ve learned from this afternoon…it’s that no amount of concerted effort can make you seem weirder than people who are just being themselves.”
In keeping with the field guide theme, Petri dishes out acres of wisdom:
“Starting a sentence with ‘I’m not a racist, but’ is almost universally a poor choice.”
“As a general rule, I advise against trying to pick up men at Star Wars conventions.”
Ms. Petri, a former Jeopardy! contestant, is also full of trivia: “The average age of the Rush Limbaugh listener is deceased.”
Not everyone will appreciate Ms. Petri’s sense of humor. I know this because my wife said, “I don’t appreciate Ms. Petri’s sense of humor.” But, to this reviewer, Petri’s writing and sense of humor are great.
Petri writes about important issues—women’s rights, for instance—in an unconventional way:
“Little Red Riding Hood What were you wearing? Red? You should have known better than to go out in red like that. You know what red does to a wolf. You were basically a neon sign. A sign that said, ‘Eat Me and Then Eat My Grandmother.’ He couldn’t help himself. That’s how wolves are.”
If you are easily offended and enjoy it, you’ll love this book. There’s something in it to offend anyone who looks for ways to be offended.
I found the book thought-provoking and entertaining, I wasn’t offended, and I loved reading every page. Still, I’m not sure that I’m better equipped to handle awkward silences.