Friday, March 6, 2009

The $64 Tomato; Enslaved By Ducks; Marley and Me

These three books are all different--one on gardening, one on unusual pets, one on a particularly quirky dog--but they have an underlying theme, a very similar voice, if you will, so I decided to review them all together.

Well, that and I'm pressed for time. =)

Anyway. I got The $64 Tomato, by William Alexander, is ostensibly a memoir about a man's gardening experiences, which sounded like just what i need. But. It turned out to begin with a litany of complaints about the landscapers and the ditch-diggers and the lawn care guys and blah blah blah he's got a bunch of money and he pays people to do a bunch of crap I don't care about, NOT GARDENING. Then he turns to trying to grow pesticide-free apple trees, the conclusion of which was extremely frustrating to me. Let me sum up: "Theoretically I'm against pesticides, but I'm too lazy to research more that can be done, so I'll use them for myself so I can get apples. Ha ha ha, I was so naive to think I didn't need them." Gag me. So I stopped reading it. This one was obviously not my favorite.

Enslaved by Ducks, by Bob Tarte, has been on my reading list for a long long time, since I first saw it in a Chinaberry magazine. This guy somehow (mysteriously, according to him) got himself involved with a menagerie including 5 or 6 house birds, two cats, maybe 7 ducks, 3 bunnies (although not at once) and maybe a few others. They're all neurotic and demanding and do silly things. The book, however, didn't keep my interest as I hoped it would. It was mildly funny. It was interesting in that I learned some things about ducks that I didn't know, and about being cautious and prepared when choosing what breed of animal you would like. But yeah. Just not nearly as great and heartwarming and laugh-out-loud funny as I had heard, and hoped.

But Marley and Me (by John Grogan)? It was everything I just mentioned Ducks wasn't. I laughed out loud a million times. I cried at least twice. I just loved it. I think that's because it has so much more about the man's family and real life in it than the other two, where family plays a more peripheral role. I obviously care a lot more about family and babies and puppies than about budgies and parrots and malathion*, thus the progression of favor these books found with me. Tomato bad, Ducks okay, Marley good. And there you have it.

As for the similarities, I honestly thought the same guy could have written all three books, so similar was the flow of the narrative and the vocabulary and expressions used. Books by middle-aged guys in which they reflect back on their naivete and complain a lot and try to be funny are apparently popular right now. Just be aware that some of them are faaaaaaaaaaar superior to others. And, to be fair, that that might depend on where you are in your own life journey, and what things you value. Duh.

*Okay, maybe I do care about malathion. But in a very different way than the author did. Yuck.

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