A New Series: One Minute Reviews of
Books by Vermont Authors
Laura's column "One Minute Reviews" has appeared bi-weekly in Wilmington, Vermont's Deerfield Valley News since 2015. In April 2018, she found that no Vermont periodical consistently reviews all fiction and non-fiction by Vermont authors, so she started a series to fill that void. Published reviews from that series and some earlier reviews of local authors are listed with links to a scan of the printed copy. Reviews still in queue are listed without links until they appear in print.
Deerfield Valley News, 7/12/2018
Amusing Essay Collection by Burlington Writer
Kimberly Harrington, Amateur Hour: Motherhood in Essays and Swear Words. Harper Perennial, 2018.
Amateur Hour's subtitle implies that it's a collection of profane essays on the sacred topic of motherhood, a description that's more witty than accurate. True, the collection opens, "I Don't Want to be Dying in Order to Tell You This" and closes with "You Are All The Joy" and "When I Die" – three border-line sacred expressions of maternal love addressed to Harrington's children. The range of the satirical and frequently profane essays in the rest of the book, however, is easy to see from their groupings: "Jobs," about surviving the stresses of working motherhood; "Vows," about the loss of babies, older family members, and marital assumptions; "Showdowns," about conflicts with children; "Schools," about the dangers in educational theory and practice; "Bodies," about female perceptions of self, young and old; and "Freedoms," wide-ranging considerations of teen independence and marital regrets. Between these grouped essays come "Timeouts," listicals, hashtags and other short satirical forms familiar from the social media.
Like many collections, this one is a combination of published and new material, and like most, it is best read a little at a time rather than in a few long sittings. It contains some truly powerful essays, notably "Don't Get Murdered in School Today," which was written shortly after Sandy Hook and went viral on Facebook, and "I Am the One Woman Who Has It All," a fine piece of satire on the stresses of working a copy-writer's 60-hour week with a four month old baby (and remaining polite while her male clients explain that she doesn't understand a female target audience), which initially appeared in The New Yorker.
Similar reflections on the difficulties of working motherhood are "Fuck. This. List.," a profane exposé of the U.S.A.'s lack of government subsidized maternal leave, and "The Superbowl of Interruptions," an amusing portrait of Harrington's attempt to write copy for a Superbowl advertisement while tending children at home.
Harrington often refers to her mixed feelings about the social media, and her essay "Overshare," which reflects upon the family pictures she has shared on Facebook, is well aware of the complex relationship between "photographing everything you do" and actually enjoying the events portrayed. Along with many other essays in the collection, however, it is in many ways a product of the internet. The general tone – self-absorbed, satiric, perceptive – will be familiar to readers of McSweeney's Internet Tendency and the parenting humor site RAZED, founded by Harrington and a friend. The wit is genuine, and many of its observations perceptive. Though grandmothers will find Harrington's 47-year-old reflections on the sorrows of ageing amusing in a way Harrington probably did not intend, working mothers (salaried or otherwise) of Harrington's generation will find much to laugh at here.
A listing of other reviews can be found here.