November 12, 2005

Mommy Knows Worst, by James Lileks

Lilek's latest, which is subtitled "Highlights from the Golden Age of Bad Parenting Advice", is a hoot, rather as you'd expect from the author of The Gallery of Regrettable Food and Interior Desecrations. He covers the whole range of mid-20th-century parenting ephemera, from pamphlets on how to deliver a baby at home to the role of the father in raising children to the dread sin of Constipation. There are quite a few chuckles here, and a number of outright belly-laughs.

But is it as good as its predecessors? Has Lileks met the high standard of his previous work? Yes, but also no. So far as the book goes, it's classic Lileks; but the whole thing feels a tad lightweight, in two senses. I don't know whether James rushed it, or ran out of inspiration, or simply had less grist for his mill, but there seems to be less here than in his previous books--it was over too quickly. (In fairness, this is an extremely subjective judgement; the page count hasn't decreased.) But second, the book is literally more lightweight. The prior volumes were initially published in hardcover; they made hefty Christmas presents and nice (if unusual) coffee-table books. With Mommy Knows Worst the publisher went straight to softcover. It would look funny on the coffee-table and it's going to look funny sitting next to them on the shelf.

Ah, well. It's still a lot of fun.

Posted by Will Duquette at November 12, 2005 10:02 AM