August 2011

The idiot girl sleeps tonight

By Laurie Notaro
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Idiot Girls and other fans of writer Laurie Notaro most likely know what they’re getting themselves into with her latest collection, It Looked Different on the Model. This reader’s first warning sign came when the table of contents provoked a laugh attack that very nearly resulted in coffee out the nose. Things only got more perilous—and hilarious—from there.

Notaro and her husband recently relocated from Phoenix to Eugene, Oregon, and many of the pieces here reflect the culture shock of being surrounded by so many eccentrics. It’s not just the woman who takes out one breast at a picnic despite there being no hungry infant within a half-mile radius, or the young man discovered napping on Notaro’s lawn with a line of ants traversing his face. As if that weren’t enough, all her husband’s friends are graduate-level English majors! Just try being Anna Nicole Smith for Halloween in that crowd: blank stares all around.

The eccentricity doesn’t limit itself to humans, either. When her dog’s shrieking becomes overwhelming, Notaro buys a bark translator to better understand its needs. Suddenly modest, the dog won’t perform on cue, leading to a bark-off between Notaro and her husband, followed by competitive analysis of the translations. At least she bought the device while conscious; one of the funniest pieces here is about Notaro’s adventures with Ambien, combining sleep with online shoe-shopping and eating Devil Dogs in bed. Buyer’s remorse? Eater’s remorse? Ha. “There was just no contest. I like sleeping, so if a Twinkie or Devil Dog had to die every now and then at the hands of a teeth-gnashing night-eater, I was cool with that.”

Each piece stands on its own, but they’re even funnier together, since Notaro will build on the premise of one essay in another. For instance, we know she takes Ambien and wanders the halls eating snack foods, so when her husband starts finding little star-shaped chocolate imprints on his pillowcase, she’s certainly the most obvious suspect. When she catches the perpetrator in the act, it’s priceless . . . and disgusting. No spoilers here; read for yourself, but wait half an hour after eating, lest you literally bust a gut laughing.

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