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Let's Panic: The Book!

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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
who Will Ruin Your Body, Destroy Your Life, Liquefy Your Brain,
and Finally Turn You
into a Worthwhile
Human Being.

Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

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Sleep Is
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Chicago Review Press

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At LET'S PANIC ABOUT BABIES, Eden Kennedy and I share our hard-won wisdom and tell you exactly what to think and feel and do, whether you're about to have a baby or already did and don't know what to do with it. → 

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Irreverent. Curious. Vaginas.

Our good friend David Farley recently held a launch party for his book An Irreverent Curiosity. The book is about Farley's adventures in and around Calcata, Italy, a bizarre village famous for once housing a holy relic: the foreskin of Jesus. In the mid-80s, the Holy Foreskin mysteriously disappeared. Farley spent a year in Italy searching for the story behind its disappearance. (It's an amazing book, by the way. It tore me away from Infinite Jest, which is not easy to do these days.)

Anyway. Back to the party! Farley and his wife Jessie—who, incidentally, was my friend way before Farley entered the scene—are friendly with Paulina Porizkova, the supermodel/writer/lovely human being, and she was also at the party. If you've been reading Finslippy for any length of time, you might remember my mentioning that Paulina's mom had been one of my midwives and had, in fact, delivered Henry. The last time I met Paulina, a few years ago, I shared this information with her. Then I got tongue-tied and couldn't think of anything else to talk about, so I backed away, waving and apologizing.

This time I felt a little more confident. Maybe it was all the wine? Hard to say. I suggested to Scott that we talk to her, and he turned this beautiful shade of lavender-gray. I couldn’t hear what he was saying but his mouth was moving frantically. I leaned in. He seemed to be pleading with me not to make him go over there.

"Aw," I said. "You're adorable! Let's go—I'll ask her if I can get her picture with you."

"No no no no," he whisper-shrieked. So cute!

"Oh, come now. At least we can say hello! Remember, her mom was my midwife. It's like we're related."

"I am not talking to Paulina. I had her poster on my bedroom wall. I… no. I will not talk to her."

But we were pushed inexorably forward by the party-tide, and soon we were abutting her circle. Then Paulina turned to us. And said hello.

Before I knew what I was doing I was reminding her that her mother had delivered my son Henry, and then I was showing her my iPhone pictures of Henry, and she was appreciating the pictures in a way that someone who has kids knows they're supposed to do. Scott was smiling and smiling some more. Also waving. But at least not apologizing, which I thought was a step forward for us as a couple. We're learning to socialize! It's never too late, kids!

I decided I was going to regale her with our favorite midwife story, which was when Scott accompanied me to a visit and I complained of yeast infections and Paulina's mom directed me never to wash my vagina with soap. (It was funny at the time.) (You had to be there.) As I was talking I realized that in order to communicate the hilarity of this story, which was not all that funny in the retelling of it, I had to 1) impersonate Paulina's mother, and 2) use the word "vagina" an awful lot. And then I became increasingly self-conscious at how much I was saying "vagina" and how the Czech/Swedish/Vampire accent I was affecting sounded a lot like I was just imitating Paulina, and not in a flattering way. I was horrified for me. Paulina looked concerned, but to her credit, she was not scanning the room for possible exits. I don't think Scott noticed what was happening, because while I yammered on he was sketching Paulina on a napkin.

To my credit, I ended the story quickly and also kept myself from telling Paulina how many stitches her mom had put in my hoo-ha. (That's polite code for "vagina.") Actually I never would have done that, because I don't really know. Maybe Paulina knew? Damn it, I should have asked her.

Miraculously, our new best friend managed to steer the conversation over to a more socially acceptable subject, for which I will be forever grateful. For the next twenty minutes or so we talked about our favorite books. The specific question she asked, which I think is kind of brilliant as a party conversation-topic-when-the-other-people-are-definitely-insane, is a three-parter. 1)What's the book you wish you had written? 2) What book do you read when you want something comforting and familiar? And 3) What book do you think everyone should read?

In response, Scott squeaked something about Noam Chomsky, and then he pulled his shirt over his head and flailed his arms about, shouting, "I'm a headless robot!" Or was that something Henry did this morning? At any rate, Noam Chomsky was mentioned. My responses were 1) To the Lighthouse, because I wanted to impress Paulina, 2) Anything by Laurie Colwin, because it's the truth, and 3) The Master and Margarita, because I wanted to impress Paulina. I'm going to have to think about what my real answers to 1 and 3 would be. The impressing-Paulina choices weren't far off, I think. I'm just glad I didn't say "The Big Book of Vaginas!" or "O, Vagina" or something equally off-kilter.

So. What would your books be?

Reader Comments (107)

1. Good Omens by Pratchett and Gaiman2. The Sun Also Rises by Hemingway3. Catch-22 by by Heller
July 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKathleen
1) Genie, a Scientific Tragedy, by Russ Rymer.2) The Secret History, by Donna Tartt.3) The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, by Marcella Hazan.
July 28, 2009 | Unregistered Commentervictoria
1. _The Power of One_ by Bryce Courtenay ... forget the movie, it is a great books with great insight into human nature and information about the implementation of the Apartied system in S.Africa.

2. _Last Days of Summer_ by Steve Kluger (also _My Most Excellent Year_) Under the humor is a treasure that even the most literal reader like myself gets.

3. _The Mysterious Edge of hte Heroic World_ By E.L. Konigsburg Her newer Young Adult fiction contains some of my favorite books. They handle issues (shaken baby death, Holocaust related topics, fighting for what you believe) in ways that kids and adults can appreciate.
July 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKathy
I wish I had written: Gone With the WindI re-read: Good in BedEveryone should read: To Kill a Mockingbird
July 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSpartanFan
1) every time i finish a book that makes me sigh as i close the cover- i wish i had written it.

2) when my anxiety gets out of hand and i just need to calm the fuck down i reread harry potter starting with the third one and going until i feel better.

3) i want everyone to read cat's cradle by vonnegut. it's my favorite book ever and i've found i can use a person's reaction to it to accurately predict how we will get along.
July 28, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterstefanie
wish I had written: Anna Karenina. It is brilliant. Brilliant, I say!

comforted by: The Thorn Birds. Weird, I know. Also, Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon

everyone should read: The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. God, how I love this book.
July 28, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterdesignmom
I wish I had written The Handmaid's Tale Someday I need to write Margaret Atwood and tell her that when I read HMT (I was 12) the feminist penny *dropped.*

I read Pride and Prejudice for comfort.

Everyone should read The Crow Road by Iain Banks or The Sea Road by Margaret Elphinstone.
July 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKate
1. The Time Traveller's Wife2. The Belgariad Series - say what you want about Edding's later work, but I read this in my teens and it is still magic3a. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time3b. the Undercover Economist
July 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNot My Mother
I can't believe no one has yet pointed out that you should have said The Vagina Monologues!

And I'm right there with you on Laurie Colwin. She is much missed.
July 28, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterliz
1) Murder Must Advertise -- mindblowingly good writing, and in a mystery novel at that.2) Stalky & Co -- but it would probably only reassure me.3) Life of Pi
July 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMegan
1. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert2. Anything by Tom Robbins or Francesca Lia Block3. The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf

Also, I totally second Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore.
July 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKat
Haha this made me crack up.
July 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBobbi Janay
Everyone should read "The Jungle" by Upton Sinclair. When I checked it out of the library I thought it was actually going to be about a jungle, like with trees and monkeys. Boy, was I surprised. Also, anything by Dorothy Dunnett is excellent. She has 2 series that you really need to read one right after the other. They are both incredible (very long) stories. the amount of research she had to do for those books blows my mind.
July 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEllen
1) I just finished reading "Olive Kittredge" by Olivia Strout and told my mother I wish I could write like that.

2) The book I turn to for comfort is "The Book of Ebenezer LePage" I've never met another soul who has read it but I keep it next to my bed and just love how it describes life and the people of the island of Guernsey - a precurser to "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society" which is also very comforting.

3) Everyone should read "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. Really makes you think, and the world would be a better place if everyone understood more about our relationship with what we eat.

July 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKip
1)What's the book you wish you had written?Anything by Terry Pratchett because he is the funniest writer in the world. If I have to pick one, Wierd Sisters

2) What book do you read when you want something comforting and familiar?Jane Eyre

3) What book do you think everyone should read?Grapes of Wrath (Steinbeck)

July 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda
1. Totally Harry Potter. Then I would be so stinking rich that I could quit my job and spend the rest of my life working on my magnum opus2. I gravitate toward Pride and Prejudice when I need a little somethin'3 Everyone should read The Wealthy Barber. Everyone.
July 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterErin
Wish I'd written: Emily Dickinson's poetry

Read for comfort: Anne of Green Gables books, or Jane Eyre

Everyone should read: The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley
July 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDana
After erasing my smart-ass answer(s ... there were many):

1) Interpreter of Maladies2) A Town Like Alice or Cannery Row3) No idea. Picking a book for this category is like picking a tattoo for your face.
July 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMignon
Dearest Alice,

You lost me at vagina.

July 29, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterheyjoe
1. I'm not much of a writer, but when I was 9 I wanted to be Judy Blume when I grew up - does that count?

2. Harriet the Spy or the Pistachio Prescription or the Little House series - anything I read to the point of memorization as a child - when I re-read as an adult, the words just come flooding back in my head before I read them.....

3. All of Jane Austen, because she is damn funny.
July 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKirsten
1) Blume's Are you there God, it's me Margaret?

2) Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men

3) Any or All of Vonnegut
July 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMaggie
1) Time Traveler's Wife. I thought it was brilliantly done.2) The Harry Potter and Twilight books. Yeah, that's right. What?3) See the above.
July 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBre
Oh my there are so many books!

I wish I had written The Brothers Karamazov (Dostoevsky)or anything else in such a perfect Russian style. To be able to write about Philosophy, passion and faith is a tough one.

Comfort - TRUTH - Diana Gabaldon's outlander series is the tops in historical romance and I like me some love for comfort.

Hmmm everyone should read I have to go with The Scarlett Letter (Nathaniel Hawthorne). It is complex and disturbing and wonderful!
I don't know off the top of my head what my books would be but that post would do just fine in all situations. That was hilarious.
July 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKingsmom
1. Harry Potter. I would be ROLLING in it. Also, I love the books.2. I'm with you on Laurie Colwin.3. This is hard. I don't think there's one book that would appeal to everyone or be useful for everyone. Hmm. Freakonomics?
July 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKate @ Savour Fare

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