I read No Exit in my early twenties, and I remember thinking hell might very well be other people, okay, sure, but under what far-fetched conditions would anyone ever actually be trapped forever in the company of strangers with no sleep or means of escape?
Then I became a parent.
From Deborah Copaken Kogan, the acclaimed author of the national bestseller Shutterbabe, comes this edgy, insightful, and sidesplitting memoir about surviving in the trenches of modern parenting.
Kogan writes situation comedy in the style of David Sedaris and Spalding Gray with a dash of Erma-Bombeck-on-a-Vespa: wry, acutely observed, and often hilarious true tales, in which the narrator is as culpable as any character. In these eleven linked pieces, Kogan and her husband are almost always broke while working full-time and raising three children in New York City, one of the most expensive and competitive cities in the world.
In one episode, exhausted from a particularly difficult childbirth, Kogan finds herself sharing a hospital room with a foul-mouthed teen mother and her partying posse. In another, Kogan manages to crawl her way to her own emergency appendectomy, which inconveniently strikes the same week her infant's babysitter is away on vacation, her adolescents are off from school, her New York Times editor needs his edit, and the whole family catches the flu. And in the book's capper essay, she drives twelve hours, solo, with a screaming toddler in a rent-a-car in a futile effort to catch a glimpse of her eldest child in his summer camp play.
Yes, Shutterbabe is all grown up and slightly worse for the wear, but her clear-eyed vision while under fire has remained intact: You've never read funnier war stories.
War photographer and author Kogan (Shutterbabe) has survived the dangers of covering the Afghan war, but in this collection of essays she turns her attention toward a different kind of struggle raising three children in the trenches of Manhattan. Her opening essay, The Bleeping Bleep Next Door, arguably the funniest in the book, details the birth of her third baby and the experience of sharing a hospital room with a 16-year-old unwed mother who blasts the TV and is visited by a gaggle of noisy teen friends toting McDonald's bags and soda that smells of booze. In other essays the author delves into life as mother of a child star (her aspiring actor son nabs a part in the new Star Trek film), the ups and downs of children's friendships, the rules and bylaws of marriage and the hassles of juggling the needs of a toddler and a teen. Kogan also explores the judgmental reactions of other parents who raise their eyebrows when she picks up her daughter at school on a Vespa. While most of Kogan's essays are witty and smart, a few (about old college roommates, and former boyfriends, etc.) seem both gratuitous and out of place. Still, readers will find plenty to ponder and laugh about as they follow this self-described laissez-faire parent on the challenging assignment of raising three kids.