Monday, February 28, 2011

Book Report - Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People by Amy Sedaris

You know how people say something's laugh-out-loud funny and you think, oh sure, that's what they all say? Well, Amy Sedaris's Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People really is. I first heard of it when Sedaris was a guest on "The Colbert Report" just before Christmas. (She showed Stephen how to make a stuffed snake out of neckties and dryer lint.) Shortly afterwards, my sister mentioned that she'd seen it also, so I bought her a copy, and then the bf ended up surprising me with one too. I can honestly say that Simple Times is the only coffee table book I've ever been compelled to read cover-to-cover. And I'm glad I did, as doing so made me privy to every zany, irreverent, and outlandish morsel. In fact, I'm so enamored of Sedaris's screwball wit that I'm posting her entire intro to the book here:

"Hello, fellow crafters! What a wonderful opportunity for us to get to know each other, but be forewarned, this will be the only opportunity, because after this introduction, there will be little time for frivolous cordialities. It's going to be all about cutting, gluing, and hammering. So let's take a moment now, shall we? Obviously you know me, my name is stitched on the cover. Still unsure? Perhaps this will help; I am the adorable best-selling author of the thoughtfully hard-hitting tome on hospitality, I Like You. I'm guessing that information has cleared some cobwebs. As for me knowing you, why don't we make things easy, and call you "Twinkles." So, Twinkles, what's all this then about me writing more books when we both know I should be resting on my laurels? Well, after I changed the way the world entertains, I figured why not do the same for crafting?

Crafting, or "making things," has always been a delightful pastime of mine because it requires putting common elements together in order to achieve a lovely something that nobody needs. But is it okay to make things?

It's natural for humans to suppress urges, for when our desires are left unchecked they lead to broken relationships, prison time, and forest fires. But there is one urge that should always be encouraged to blossom - the creative urge! Yes, it is healthy to want to make things, but that desire without guidance can lead to foreclosure and forest fires. Too often instruction for crafting is gutter-learned. Convoluted half-baked lessons picked up from street corners, back alleys, and scouting. Simple Times will provide crafters with the proper guidance, much like a parole officer. But this book is much more than a supervisor for crafting offenders; hopefully it will also inspire you, helping to spark or trigger new creative thoughts leading to a vast array of hastily constructed obscure d'arts.

Although this book is marketed toward sane, intelligent adults - frankly, that's where the money is - should it fall into the hands of the mentally challenged, it will do them no harm. Conversely, it will speak to them directly, addressing their special needs. For any educated, well-adjusted adult can glue Popsicle sticks together to create a cold plate trivet, but try the same simple task while hampered by a defective brain, and you will understand the full breadth of crafting.

This book includes an infinite* assortment of projects that utilize a wide range of skills and are inspired by many cultures, spanning from a Mexican Knife Sheath to a Mexican Sombrero. But most importantly, these projects will engage everybody: the sane, the not so sane, those hobbled with disabilities, those on the lam - anybody who's looking for a simple, creative way to kill a lot of time. And let's face it, we all have some time that needs to be killed."

*actual number of projects determined by amount of space and author's level of fatigue.

See? I told you. I have to say, though, one thing about this book confused me. I couldn't figure out if Sedaris was trying to motivate crafters by making fun of them, or . . . just making fun of crafters. (Not that I'd blame her if it was the latter; goodness knows we're a weird breed, brimming with quirks to be ridiculed.) It's especially hard to tell because most of the projects aren't the kind that anyone would willingly attempt (mouse ghetto, hobo fire in a can, or crafty candle salad, anyone?). But then, as per usual, I'm probably reading into it all too much . . .


SparkleFarkle said...

Saddly, the Borders in my front yard is one of those that will soon be closing its doors forever. Yes, I am shattered. Bittersweetly, I've been buying up books I've been meaning to get over the years but haven't, in the last few days.

I did notice, though, several Borders shelves are still lined with tons of the Amy Sedaris book, Simple Times, whose cover has always intrigued me, yet I have never thumbed through one. My guess is, in the past, something has always distracted me (Probably a shiny object. They tend to do that to me.) and then, suddenly, I'm back home again, realising I forgot to once again look through the book.

Right now, I'd like to say thank-you for this summary/review, because as soon as the store opens today, I am going to snap up a copy of ST, buying it without even cracking it open first for a looksee!

The Tote Trove said...

I'm sad about Borders closing too. It's an institution!

Simple Times is right up your alley! I think you're just the sort of person to appreciate its offbeatness :)