There are two things working against me here. 1) I am not used to reviewing reference books, and 2) I’ve been reading The Expectant Father slowly because the chapters are divided by months, and I’m trying to not read the whole thing in a row so I have a better idea of what to understand in the moment, instead of all at once and then I forget things by the time they’re relevant. As such, I’m only about four chapters in and have something like two-thirds of the book to go, since there is a big delivery room chapter. So this is at least part of why the review is split into two pieces.
Anyway: I do not know how valuable of a resource it is in terms of actual learning / time-specific knowledge. I think it’s probably closer to good than bad along that axis? It spends time talking about how things are for the interloper, how things are for the host, and how things are for me, and man, who knows if any of it is actually right, is my point. But it’s probably good, is my other point.
What it is definitely good at is making me feel like I have a handle on things. Which is, y’know, shockingly important! Or probably not especially shocking, in retrospect. Hopefully it proceeds along the same continuum as I continue to read it. All will be revealed in the second part of the review.
As you probably know if you’ve spent much time on the internet over the last five years, there’s a bizarrely drawn website about (mostly) childhood, dogs, and/or mental health called Hyperbole and a Half. What there’s a slight chance you don’t know is that the creator of that site has also released a book compiled partially from what’s already on the internet and partially from new essays.
She’s funny, often relatable, and the book reads quickly. I’m not sure you’ll get a deeper insight into the human condition, although if you’ve never dealt with depression, maybe you would learn something? But people often don’t, if they haven’t seen it themselves, so maybe not. By and large, it’s a humorous essay book, and they all cover the same thematic ground. The specific circumstances of this one? Yep, funny.
I do really wonder about her self-image, though. Her drawings are all on par with each other, rough but good enough that you can tell there’s some real talent going into them. The dogs start out looking like caricatures of bad dog drawings until you realize how well she captures different poses and moods. All of the people look like people, and so forth. Except, her self portrait is of a worm with a blonde sharkfin, wearing a tubesock. This is universally true, every time, even amidst other perfectly normally (but still roughly) drawn people. It’s obviously a stylistic choice, I just… like I said, I cannot help wondering what it means, on the inside. The answer to that question does not, as far as I can tell, reside within this book.
But it’s still worth reading!
Thing number one, which is important: I am not making this book up.
See, there’s this self-help book, in which the Japanese author recommends exercise, positive thinking, getting in touch with your body’s energy, diet changes and fasting to cure depression, cancer, family and personal problems of all stripes, to achieve success in life, to look and feel younger, and to be able to instantly apprehend all that can be known about objects and people using the power of your brain. Which, okay, is not that different from many other self-help books and/or new age treatises. The difference between those books and this one is they they were not written in Japanese and then seemingly passed through Babelfish a couple of times. Nor do the first quarter of these other books consist of a mishmash of disordered Usenet postings from the turn of the millennium, before it sank beneath the waves of the internet never to be seen again.
Most importantly though, these other books do not recommend that you “constrict anus 100 times every day and then dent navel 100 times every day after constricting anus 100 times every day, following the lifestyle of long-lived British.” They do not explain that after fasting for three weeks, you will rid yourself of “a big bucketful of old, black excrement” which will weigh 4-5 kilograms. They do not exhort you to concentrate your third attention and send out your immaterial fiber at objects patiently for an hour a day for 3-5 years or possibly 10. They do not spontaneously speculate about the ways in which Al Gore and George W. Bush probably follow most of this advice and are able to * * twice or three times in succession without pulling out, as a result. (Okay, I may have taken ordering liberties with that last part; but it’s not an unfair assessment.)
Here’s my point. I don’t know if constricting anus 100 times every day is an effective way to good-bye depression or not. But reading this book? It really seems to do the trick. Sure, there’s a slow part in the middle, but mostly, more laugh density than most intentionally comedic books I read. Also, assuming you hadn’t heard of this book before, be honest with yourself. You’ve constricted your anus at least once while reading this, haven’t you? (Be honest with yourself. Not with me. I don’t want to know details, here. Come on, people! Keep me out of your anus!)