by Stacia Friedman
I love libraries. Whenever I enter one, I feel as powerful as a lobbyist strolling through the halls of Congress, pockets jingling. Whatever I want, I can have. But, lately, I have an overwhelming desire to rearrange the way the books are shelved. It seems to me that most so-called fiction belongs in the self-help section. Let me explain.
If you are contemplating having an extra-marital affair, you don’t need a book written by a marriage counselor. You need “Madame Bovary.” It contains helpful tips on the pros and cons of adulterous affairs, as well as an overview on maxing out your spouse’s credit. But you say it was written in 1856? Trust me, Emma Bovary’s extra-marital adventures are as contemporary as the Hollywood breakups on Entertainment Tonight.
Harboring murderous feelings toward your ex because she (or he) ran off with your best friend? You don’t need a book entitled “Healing Your Sociopathic Tendencies.” You need “Herzog” by Saul Bellow. For over 300 pages, the author agonizes over the real and imagined infidelities of his second wife. Nothing actually happens. It’s like being stuck in a dive bar after hours with a chatterbox who is drunk on existentialism and literary acrobatics.
The fact that the book was written and set during the Eisenhower Administration is irrelevant. Just ask any divorce lawyer; the punishment for shooting an ex-spouse hasn’t changed in 75 years. Plus, there’s the glee factor. After penning this morose autobiographical gem, Bellow went on to marry THREE MORE TIMES. Now, doesn’t that feel better?
You lost your job and have been unemployed so long that you think of Steve Harvey as your personal life coach. There is no book in the careers section of the library that will motivate you as much as “The Ax” by Donald Westlake. Although it was written as a tongue-in-cheek satire, job seekers will find Westlake’s book quite instructional. The novel’s downsized hero realizes that the only way to eliminate the competition for the position he desires is to, well, ELIMINATE them. One by one. Is it legal? Hell, no. Is it cathartic? Hell, yes!
It hurts when you pee. You’re embarrassed to tell your significant other. But it feels like you douched with Comet cleanser. Don’t bother looking in the health section for a cure. What you want is “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert. The author will transport you from the embarrassment and pain of your urinary tract infection to exotic locales around the world. You will be liberated from your dull, middle-class life.
You dread family gatherings? Your parents drive you crazy? Your siblings are impossible? You don’t need to read Dr. Phil or Dr. Freud. You need to read “Genesis.” That’s right. The first chapter of the Old Testament will set you straight regarding the origin of dysfunctional families, starting with Adam and Eve. You think the holidays are murder at your house? Adam and Eve’s kids KILLED each other, and guess what? The Earth kept spinning. And don’t ask what Joseph’s brothers did to him just because their father gave him the beach house.
You got the babysitter pregnant, and your wife has Gloria Allred on speed dial? Not to worry. Go back to the Bible and read how Abraham had the hots for his nubile housemaid Hagar while his 90-year-old wife Sarah was flushing his Cialis down the toilet. You’ll find it very informative, and you’ll love the resolution. I don’t want to give away the ending, but let’s just say that Hugh Hefner didn’t invent the ménage a trois.
You’re having problems with office politics. You are afraid of being passed over for promotion and don’t know whom to trust. You’ve read Steve Jobs and Trump. You don’t need another self-made billionaire autobiography. You need to read “The Godfather.” This novel will guide you, step-by-step, on how to rise through the ranks, choke the competition and consistently out-gun your adversaries. Not for the squeamish. A background in butchering and animal husbandry will be helpful.
You are worried that your teenage daughter is going to experiment with sex before she is emotionally mature enough to handle it. I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but ask the librarian for a copy of “50 Shades of Gray.” Don’t worry; they have many copies. Do not attempt to read this book yourself. Respected literary critics have already deemed it “unreadable.”
Just hand the best-selling book to your daughter and let nature take its course. On the one hand, she will think you are a super “cool” mom. On the other hand, once she gets past the first 100 pages of grammatically banal foreplay into the hardcore S&M sex, she will be so confused, disappointed and disgusted, you will find pamphlets about French convents hidden inside her underwear drawer.
Remember, fiction is just a way for authors to write about their families and friends without getting sued. It’s as “true” as any advice you’ll find in the self-help section of your library.