With One Eye Open Reviewed By Lois Henderson of Bookpleasures.com
Reviewer Lois Henderson: Lois has a MA General Linguistics, BA (English) Honors, Higher Education Diploma, Higher Diploma in Library and Information Science - indexer of more than 130 books; editor of dozens of theses and study manuals at university and college level.
View all articles by Lois Henderson
Author: Polly Frost
Publisher: Rapture House, New York
Polly Frost reassures the reader that she has done her best to ensure that each and every one of the twenty-five humor pieces in With One Eye Open is “entirely free of seriousness”. Whereas seventeen of the short pieces and stories were written in the last two years, she has included some earlier pieces as well, dated from 1985 onwards. That Frost takes humor seriously is clearly evident from her telling herself, in private, that her “mini-creations cover a Chekhovian range of subjects and embody a Dostoevskian variety of approaches”. Her use of self-parody and irony are clear in her wry consideration of herself in such a light (as we all know, the writings of both Chekhov and Dostoevsky are redolent with the dark despair of the Russian soul, whereas Frost’s text radiates the uptown blues ambience of New York, the city which, indubitably, first gave rise to the executive suite-bound angst of such literati as Woody Allen). Akin to her literary mentors, Frost is given to deep exploration of her own psyche, revealing her underlying introspective nature in her continuous undermining of self.
Not only does Frost go to great lengths to poke fun at herself and her own literary endeavors, but she also goes to inordinate lengths to explore the implicit falsifications of the urbane living in an urban society. Frost has come a long way from her first attempts at penning a fictional masterpiece, which, on her presentation to a creative writing class, she claims, only served to elicit an eruption of giggles, and advice from the workshop’s instructor that she focus on doing something funny instead. Rather than mincing off in high dudgeon, as many an erstwhile writer is prone to do, after some profound reflection Frost decided to take such sound advice to heart, and, rather than fight the laughter, to invite it instead. And, indeed, her invitation is most appealing…
The fixations of the internet obsessed, who wish only to boost their Amazon ratings in a vainglorious attempt to seize their Warholian fifteen minutes of elusive fame, are upended in Frost’s opening piece, entitled “Reblock yourself the Polly Frost way” in which she details the agenda of “The Polly Frost Boot Camp for Shutting You Up”. Some of Frost’s pieces are much shorter than others, a case in point being the two-page “Goodbye, I”, in which she compares herself to “the human equivalent of a Jack Russell terrier” (as a dog lover, I vehemently object to her use of such a metaphor—what is she trying to imply, that all Jack Russells are psychotic? [RAOFL!!!]). Her appreciation of the canine kind (and any reference to her as the feminine gender of such a species could not be further from the truth) is also revealed in her illustrated (think James Thurber-type cartoons) description of innovative hybrid pooches in “My dog breeds”, in which she expounds on the virtues of owning such outrageous breeds as the Bollywood terrier and the EcoDoodle (“a dog whose coat is 100 percent organic hemp…all shedding is guaranteed not just 100% recyclable but smokable too.”) Just a sample, but hopefully enough to titillate your taste buds…
Love it or leave it, Polly Frost’s collection of humorous pieces, fifteen of which first appeared in The New Yorker or in Grin & Tonic on nook, the B&N eBook reader, is inescapably witty and unavoidably wry. So why don’t you go on ahead and give it a try? (And no, I have no aspirations to be the next Sylvia Plath, despite my penchant for derivative rhyme…)