Friday, April 30, 2010


Never has a $2.00 consignment shop book given me such immediate gratification. I laughed out loud - many times - while reading "there's a (slight) chance i might be going to hell" by Laurie Notaro.

Poor Maye Roberts. She had plenty of friends in Phoenix, but she doesn't live in Phoenix anymore. Her husband has accepted a post as a college professor in Spaulding, Washington. He fits right into their new life, but Maye can't seem to buy a friend. An early effort to impress leads her to disaster at a faculty party. Trying to remove a vintage pink cardigan which has somehow offended Dean Spaulding's wife, she ends up getting the cardigan and her blouse stuck up around her shoulders and upper arms.

Hopping frantically around to free herself, with "Mae's bra, Mae's belly and the waistband of Mae's girdle" exposed to all, Maye realizes that "dozens of eyes were now witnessing her earthy dance in the corner of the dean's living room as she displayed the brand of inhibition typically evinced only after ingesting cactus buttons or licking poisonous toads. Some were filled with disbelief, some with disgust, some with dismay. There was one particularly offended pair that caught Maye's eye and triggered a voice in her head. 'Melissabeth', it said surprisingly. 'I can't believe I remembered your name after all!'"

In a last-ditch effort to find new friends, Maye enters the Spaulding Sewer Pipe Queen Pageant. At the turn of the century, Malcolm Spaulding,"visionary and ambassador of indoor plumbing", chose "the prettiest spot in the country to call his home and build himself a new sewer pipe factory". (Maye describes Spaulding as "an insufferable romantic despite the fact that his life was shit").

In her effort to win the contest and beat ex-queen Rowena Spaulding's favorite candidate, Maye locates the whereabouts of a former Sewer Pipe Queen, who was blamed for a dreadful fire in Spaulding many years ago and is now a cigarette-smoking, booze-swilling recluse. In doing so, Maye discovers the reason why Mrs. Spaulding loathes that vintage sweater, and also uncovers the long-lost secret regarding the actual perpetrator of the fire.

In some ways, this book is a lot like the "Sweet Potato Pie Queen" books, but even funnier. Here are some of Notaro's wittiest descriptions:

"Maye was so relieved when the front door opened that she almost squealed like a sorority girl after one beer on an empty stomach."

"Not good," the plumber informed them gruffly. "You have old galvanized down there; it's coming apart like a celebrity marriage."

"and Glynda . . . who had the dryest hair Maye had ever seen that was not sprouted from the head of a Barbie doll lying naked in a Goodwill bin."

"New businesses popped up all over town like pimples on the face of puberty."

Maye's sweater "was kelly green and boasted not one badly knitted reindeer pulling Santa's sleigh but a pair of them, complete with real live bells on what was probably meant to be their harness but resembled more of a rope, suggesting the reindeer had escaped from their own lynching amid snowflakes the size of hubcaps. Reindeer number one particularly was in grave danger as a boulder-size chunk of hail was virtually an inch from his little holiday skull. It was a wretched, horrible thing, fit a bit too tightly, the sort of sweater a mother-in-law gives to her son's wife when she thinks he has married poorly."

"Maye thought about it for a moment, and other than the fact that she had roofied up an officer of the law to rat out his old, alcoholic, allegedly arsonist aunt, she supposed it really didn't make a difference if they were related or not".

If you've been given an Rx to laugh more, please read this book.

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