Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

American Housewife by Helen Ellis

Am. Housewife
How can you not like a book containing the line “I fix myself a hot chocolate because it is a gateway drug to reading” ? And that’s just in the first short story in this collection, which is filled with sharp observations and sometimes edgy humor which often results in laugh out loud moments. Each story has a distinct voice and style. One, “Wainscotting Wars” is told entirely through emails between neighbors in an upscale apartment building, where one wants to redecorate their common hallway and the other doesn’t. It may sound trite, but escalates in a weird and startling way.
The longest story is a first person account of participating in a fictional reality show “Dumpster Diving with the Stars”. The narrator, an author who had a bestseller 15 years ago, is using the show as a comeback and her cynical views on her fellow contestants also contain a surprising amount of pathos. Another is a satirical account of a writer sponsored by a corporation and the unexpected ways it becomes a nightmare.There are short pieces of advice, on how to be a proper cat for instance, or a Southern lady. The only story I disliked was one about doormen and ghosts, but a less wimpy person might feel differently.
All in all, this was an enjoyable collection from a very jaded viewpoint and I really admired how Ellis made so much of a limited palette of subjects.
Random House LLC 2016 210 pp. ISBN 0385541031

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  • (The header image is from Aesop's Fables, illustrated by Francis Barlow (1666), and appears courtesy of the Digital and Multimedia Center at the Michigan State University Libraries.)
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