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.
Screen Writer With an Empty Nest
Kari Lizer, Aren't You Forgetting Someone? Essays from my Mid-Life Revenge. Running Press, 2020
When women reach the age of fifty-five (give or take a few years), they disappear. No more look-overs from passing men. No more envious glances from women. No more being noticed. They're invisible. Poof. To some women, that's a relief; to others, it's a tragic end to forty years of physical and mental identity. To all, it requires a certain amount of adjustment. Kari Lizer, known to TV audiences as the creator of The New Adventures of Old Christine, here collects twenty-seven observant, sharp-witted essays on her adjustment to the new state.
High on the list of the indignities middle age has brought upon her is a new status as an empty nester. The three children she has spent the past twenty years raising as a single working mom, driving them to soccer matches, taking them on camping trips, concocting tempting birthday parties, organizing college visits, are now in college. They don't call very often. They don't answer texts. In fact, they don't stay in touch at all—mdash;except when they come home for vacations and aren't exactly eager to spend time with her. As a "pathologically maternal" woman, she forgives them and does the dishes by herself. "It's not their fault. It's just nature's unfortunate timing. They are at the time of life when they want to spread their wings. While I am losing my feathers." That's a great one-liner, but its audience effect no doubt depends upon one's age group. Nostalgic empty nesters will laugh at the exaggerated set pieces in which Lizer confronts her ungrateful progeny. Among college freshmen, however, the scenes of Mom carrying Junior's luggage to his dorm room, making his bed, unpacking his suitcase and putting up a picture of the two of them on his wall—mdash;all the while choking back tears—mdash;may evoke acute embarrassment, accompanied by passionate desire for Momless independence. It's all a matter of perspective.
As a Hollywood writer, director and actor, Lizer waxes eloquent on a women's place in her professional world. With merciless humor, she recalls her naïve twenty-year-old's hope that getting a guest star part in Alan Thicke's "Growing Pains" was a sign of his interest in her, and that his invitation to take her to lunch was her "big break." Except it wasn't, because confronted with a tour of Thicke's mansion that started in the bedroom, she was embarrassed and suggested they leave. They did, but one smirk from Thicke when they returned to the set made the truth unbelievable. After all, who would believe Lizer would draw a star's attention for her acting? Nobody. As Lizer remarks in a later essay about her decision to join the #metoo movement after Kristine Blasey Ford's testimony, professional success "is different for men." In their world, remarks about the "aging" of a forty-one year old female actor are perfectly permissible. Her examples are withering, perceptive and right on target.
Away from her professional world, Lizer's meditations on ageing are often laugh-aloud funny. Advised to buy an LED light bulb that would last thirty years, she takes a quick look thirty years ahead, sees an eighty-five year old woman whose dog has died—mdash;and buys an incandescent. She describes getting fired as a therapy dog volunteer because she's a writer and mother. In revenge for this and the other injustices in her life, she creates a list of things she doesn't want to do anymore: hug everybody she meets, fist-bump other people, make small talk with boring colleagues, be polite to friends who are married to jerks. It's hard to argue. And it's fun to read.