As the war drags on in Iraq and the economy continues its path toward destruction, many people here in America are looking for a good laugh because, after all, laughter is the best medicine. Yet, S. Sommers’ newest book, “If You Can’t Say Anything Nice, Say Something Offensive: Make Sure Everybody is Equally Offended. It’s the American Way,” is clearly the wrong prescription. With the unfunny garbling of a traditional adage in her obscenely long title, Sommers gets off to a dreadful start and never recovers.
In only 88 pages, Sommers attempts to write a religious/political/cultural satire in the style of renowned English satirists Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope. Although this type of writing was popular in Swift and Pope’s time, nowadays, it just does not have the same comedic effect. In fact, the only way it stands a chance with today’s readers is if it is current as well as exceptionally smart and witty. While Sommers does manage to stay current with references to Britney Spears, MySpace and Millie, the Bush’s “First Canine,” her attempts at employing parody, allusion and satire fall well short of being clever or sharp.
Divided into five sections, Sommers’ book deals with topics such as Bible stories, faith-related matters, current events, mid-terms (elections) and cultural quirks. In what was one of the few signs of intelligence involved in the production of this book, Sommers wisely chose to write her views in the easily digestible form of poetry, letters, short stories and Q&A format. At least this way you can effortlessly sift through the rubbish in search of the one or two amusing opinions given by Sommers.
What is truly ironic about this book, though, is that Sommers contradicts her own title. The cover advises readers to “make sure everybody is equally offended,” yet, of all the ink that is wasted on this book, most of it is spent bashing George W. Bush and the Roman Catholic and Muslim religions. If making sure everybody is equally offended is, in fact, the American way as the cover states, then Sommers must not be American. But, wait, she lives in Houston, Texas? Something just does not add up here.
Not to completely denounce Sommers’ abilities as a writer — she does make a couple comical remarks regarding Bush that take a different aim than the usual clich?d shots thrown at our 43rd President over the past eight years. One particularly hilarious collection of letters titled “The 9th Inning: An American Epistle” involves the American people asking God why he could not have just made Bush the commissioner of baseball instead of president. Unfortunately, you have to make it through heaps of uninteresting drivel before finding work of this quality.
Undoubtedly the worst section of this book, though, is the Q&A segment, which reads like an ultra lame joke book. With real winners like “Q: What does a Muslim cowboy holler at his cattle to get them moving? A: Jiiiihad!” and “Q: What do you call the war in Iraq? A: George & Dick & Rummy’s Most Excellently Misguided Adventure,” you almost have to wonder what the hell Sommers was on to have thought that this was funny enough to be published.
But things only get worse from there. You know how people always say something is not funny if you have to explain it? Well, clearly nobody had the courtesy to tell this to Sommers. At the end of the book, there is a reference section that lists and defines all the people, events, quotes, terms, etc. Sommers has made references to in the previous pages so readers know exactly why her allusions and parodies were supposed to be humorous. And they’re not even amusing descriptions either. It is just basic terminology like “‘time of the month’: Reference to the time just before and during a woman’s period” or “First Family: Refers to the President of the United States and his immediate family.”
When it comes to crappy literary satire that would have been better off left in the mind of its author, there is no doubt that “If You Can’t Say Anything Nice, Say Something Offensive” takes the urinal cake. In the end, Sommers should have just stuck with the traditional adage and not said anything at all.
1/2 star out of 5