Jill Kargman’s slim volume of essays and observations, SOMETIMES I FEEL LIKE A NUT, begins with the admission that though she titles her book after the Almond Joy jingle, she really hates coconuts. But like her comedic hero, Woody Allen, she is totally comfortable reveling in her discomfort. And honestly, she tells us, sometimes she really does feel like a nut.
Nutty is a good way to describe Kargman’s latest book. It’s funny, clever and silly. The humor here is sometimes raunchy and definitely aimed at older Gen-X’ers with a nostalgia for the 1980s and a refusal to feel old in their late 30s and 40s. Yet she manages to make her specifics feel universal in many ways.
The specifics are that Kargman is a New York City writer who comes from a family that prides itself on its sense of humor, and she herself uses “nuttiness as a coping mechanism.” And though that was put to the test when she was diagnosed with cancer at age 35 (briefly recounted in the essay “Tumor Humor,” which is also about aging and botox), SOMETIMES I FEEL LIKE A NUT doesn’t dwell on making light of tragic situations, but instead turns its laser to topics such as awful babysitters, awful apartments and awful jobs.
Kargman begins with “Glossary,” something that usually falls at the end of a book, but here it sets the tone for her brand of humor and wordplay. Readers will find definitions from the silly (a food baby is “when you eat such a huge meal you look pregnant --- but instead of the tenant being a fetus, it’s eggplant Parm”), to the pop-cultural (remember Frederica Bimmel from The Silence of the Lambs?), to the gross (I will let you find out about “godfathering” on your own). Her other chapters of lists --- things she is obsessed with, things she detests, ideas for nail polish colors --- are funny but seem like filler, especially compared to laugh-out-loud essays like “Things That Haunt Me,” where she examines her fears of vans, mimes and clowns, Nellie Oleson and meat.
Kargman is not afraid to get personal, and readers with delicate sensibilities should perhaps stay away from her essays “Tea with Dracula” and “My Vagina is the Holland Tunnel.” But they will be missing out on many laugh-out-loud moments. From getting a tattoo to shooting guns, from an unexpectedly excellent Passover Seder in Aspen to an addiction to spin class, Kargman takes the mundane and elevates it to, if not art, serious entertainment.
Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on March 28, 2011