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Housebroken: Admissions of an Untidy Life


Housebroken: Admissions of an Untidy Life

If you've never read any of Laurie Notaro's books, a glance at some of her titles will give you an idea of what to expect. “The Potty Mouth at the Table,” “There's a (Slight) Chance I Might Be Going to Hell” and “I Love Everybody (and Other Atrocious Lies)” are a few examples of what you have missed.

Imagine having a crazy friend whom you only see once every few years. When you get together, there is non-stop talking and laughing for the entire weekend. It may or may not involve wine. I am lucky enough to have a friend like that and to have read most of Notaro's books to fill in the times between visits.

To get an idea of how her DNA led to the “Birth of a Hoarder,” the first chapter reveals stories about her Pop Pop. His philosophy regarding recycling began long before most environmentalists were born. He taught her to believe that everything has value, even if someone else has thrown it into the Dumpster. “ the clown head he balanced on a stick in his garden to scare birds away from his tomatoes...”

"In addition to all the laughs, knowing nods and downright enabling of my bad habits, Notaro includes some great Italian recipes that I can't wait to try."

When Notaro talks about her love of books, she says, “Tossing books you've never read is not just a sin, it's a crime, one worthy of capital punishment. Frankly, if I walk into your house and you don't have two hundred books somewhere that you haven't read yet, I don't trust you.” She also affirms my belief that life is too short to read boring books, “even if it's one of mine.” I guess it's just fun to know that a famous author also puts her Spanx on one leg at a time...and has the injured thumbs to prove it.

One of my favorite chapters is “I Will Survive. Hey Hey.” When her husband gags on a tablespoon full of peanut butter that expired nine years ago, she reminisces, “I remember the glory days of my Y2K prep like it was yesterday. I was there for every sale of canned creamed corn, three for a dollar.” She reasons to her husband that the rancid peanut butter would have tasted delicious if disaster had actually struck at midnight of the new millennium.

For those of us who have tried in vain to feng shui ourselves into serenity at home or tirelessly endeavored to keep our documents filed for easy access, Notaro is like a loving aunt, comforting our messy inner child. She assures us that it is okay to choose learning how to sew over mopping the kitchen floor. After all, who has time to be tidy when you are discovering how to make your own cheese?

In addition to all the laughs, knowing nods and downright enabling of my bad habits, Notaro includes some great Italian recipes that I can't wait to try. In that connection, I have one critical comment. She calls spaghetti sauce “gravy” and claims that every New York Italian does so too. Now, I have seen all three Godfather movies, grew up in the Bronx and have had many Italian friends. Never once did anyone refer to that delicious sauce as "gravy." But I can live with it since everything else in the book rocks.

Reviewed by Maggie Harding on July 22, 2016

Housebroken: Admissions of an Untidy Life
by Laurie Notaro

  • Publication Date: July 12, 2016
  • Genres: Essays, Humor, Nonfiction
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books
  • ISBN-10: 1101886080
  • ISBN-13: 9781101886083