Nose Down, Eyes Up – Merrill Markoe
I know, and confess to liking, Markoe from her humor writing for Letterman and Not Necessarily The News.
I had no idea she was a novelist as well until I saw her new book, about a divorced man who refuses to grow up who can suddenly hear what his dogs are saying to, and about, him.
She is convincing writing as the man-boy narrator but even more so when channeling the dogs, with their naïve, persistent and heartbreaking personalities coming through loud and clear.
I’m also a big fan of the concept of the alpha dog, Jimmy, and his horror when he realizes he is not our narrator’s biological son. He is the only non-rescue of the bunch, and has no memory of puppyhood save his owner/father, Gil. He fully expects to someday lose his hair, walk upright and magically grow a thumb.
No, it’s not serious reading. It’s not even that deep for fun reading. But it’s still fun, and that’s what counts.
Keep The Change – Steve Dublanica
A clever look at how America became land of the gratuity, by a waiter-turned-writer who wants to become the king of all things tipping.
Want to know the right way to throw bucks to your waiter, stripper, blackjack dealer, shoe shiner, masseuse, dominatrix, doorman, hair stylist, sex-line worker? It’s all in here.
Plus, you get a bonus chapter on how to tip at the holidays and another on how to tip at weddings.
The only drawback of the variety of the service-related gratuity covered is the author, whose a bit too frat-boy in his life outlook (we could have done with less Vegas) and a little too ready to sign off on tip-creep and tip-as-bribe.
He also forgets the basic premise of the relationships he tries so hard to argue are at the center of tipping. Sure, drop 20 percent for good service. But not once does the guy mention the obvious: Say thank you when you do it.
Katie Up And Down The Hall – Glenn Plaskin
This book purports to be a memoir of a dog but it is more an endearing look at how we make our own families these days.
The author first explains how his cocker spaniel puppy, Katie, came into his own life. Then, she talks of how she expanded his world by eventually making friends with his elderly neighbors, Pearl and Arthur; a young boy and his father and other people in his lower Manhattan building.
Katie turns out to be a bit of a celebrity hound, coming along with her journalist owner on interviews with Leona Helmsley, Peter Jennings and Katharine Hepburn (her namesake). But her main job is to unite a makeshift family for years, building up to and after the September 11 attacks test those bonds.
I’m Dreaming Of A Black Christmas – Lewis Black
For a bitter Jewish New Yorker, Black is a lot more sentimental about Christmas than you might imagine.
A comic who made his name with angry and acerbic bits, Black is still a thinker. And what he thinks about at Christmas ranges from spoiled children on vacation at the same Costa Rican resort as he, the time spent with family and friends and, most of all, his own lack of a wife and children.
To say this is a book about Christmas is an injustice to that greater theme, of living a single life by choice. Divorced and fatherless, Black reflects that at Christmas, he must confront those choices that he can ignore the rest of the year.
Managing to share something that person, amid pages of laughs, is no easy task. Kudos to Black for managing it so well. This was a fantastic read.