07 May 2010

It Could Be Worse, You Could Be Me

"Meet Ariel.  Her glass is half empty...and leaking."

So begins the description on the back cover of Ariel Leve's new book It Could Be Worse, You Could Be Me, a collection of entries from her "Cassandra" and "Half Empty" columns.  Ariel is a worry-wart with a bit of pessimist mixed in; she says on page one, "Worrying is my yoga," and she quibbles over the mundanities of life like how to respond to "what's up?" or the way New Yorkers view your responses to small talk at a party.

However, there is a wryness to her writing.  Ariel also finds the irony of a situation.  In "Don't Ask Where She Got It" Ariel notes that while women in New York will share intimate medical history freely they are reticent to disclose the store where they purchased the handbag you're admiring; if you steal their style, you could subsume their life.  She muses over the complications of a proposed all-male brothel - not legal complications, but relationship complications.  She also notes that the woman "tut-tutting" you in the check-out line because you asked for a plastic bag is not the tree-hugging bicyclist but another species of female entirely.

She loves coffee, too (which is what prompted last week's "Teaser Tuesday" post), so I find a kindred spirit in Ariel - I also tend toward the negative, love coffee, and find a "loser friend" can occasionally come in handy. 

For those not familiar with Ariel's style, reading It Could Be Worse, You Could Be Me straight through may seem a bit of a chore.  She worries about everything and usually assumes the worst of Murphy's Law (i.e. if something can go wrong, it will) so reading one column after another can make her observations seem repetitive.  I think the layout of this book helps to alleviate this (I read it straight through but then I've read her previous columns at times).  Each piece is the length of a column - at most 2 pages or so in length - and they are grouped by subject; you can jump around to a different chapter depending on the subject and read just a few columns at a time if you need a worry break.  Ariel's work is very much worth reading because she is a "real person" rather than one of the glitterati.  She's an author in a small Manhattan apartment not a megastar boo-hooing her way through her multi-million dollar contract in the Hamptons.  We can all identify with the hassle of trying to find a cab.  In the pouring rain.  By yourself.  In stilettos (and I live in Iowa - I may not hail many cabs but I have had to traverse a very large parking lot in the pouring rain by myself in stilettos without getting lost, run over, or soaked to the skin).

*Dear FTC: I received a copy of this book from the publisher.

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