Sonderbooks Book Reviews by Sondra Eklund

Sonderbooks Stand-out 2004
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*****= An all-time favorite
****  = Outstanding
***    = Above average
**      = Enjoyable
*        = Good, with reservations


****How to Remodel a Man

Tips and Techniques on Accomplishing Something You Know Is Impossible But Want to Try Anyway

by W. Bruce Cameron

Reviewed October 1, 2004.
St. Martin’s Press, New York, 2004.  288 pages.
Available at Sembach Library (814 CAM).
Sonderbooks Stand-out 2004, #1, Humorous Nonfiction

I couldn’t get this book processed without laughing hard and reading the flap copy aloud to all of my library co-workers.  (“Current research suggests there is a large group of people who have been trying to change men.  For want of a better term, let’s call these people ‘women.’”) 

I quickly claimed first dibs on reading the book.  When I brought it home, of course I had to reassure my husband that I certainly wasn’t reading such a book because I had any need or desire to remodel him, but simply because it was so funny.  I had to read bits aloud to him, too.  After this treatment, he was kind enough not to say anything when I loudly chuckled over further reading.

W. Bruce Cameron claims to be a Changed Man.  He reached this exalted state after talking with his sister about why women didn’t want to go out with him more than once.  She came up with the idea of remodeling him, which he thought might make interesting material for his humor column. 

They began by talking about his flaws.  His sister suggested that they both come up with a list.  Bruce wracked his brain and came up with a list of four, including that he didn’t have a sports car and didn’t have enough money to run out and buy every shiny new gadget that comes on the market.  His sister, with the help of several other women, came up with a list of one hundred and seventy-eight.

He goes on to explore many aspects of remodeling a man, all with personal examples.  At the beginning, there’s a handy quiz:

“Simple Test to See If Someone Should Be Remodeled

Question 1:  Is he a man?    Yes    No

Scoring:  Give one point for every “Yes” answer.

Score:    0 = No remodeling necessary.
    1 = Definitely needs remodeling.”

My favorite chapter was the one about the Incompetency Defense that men use to keep from doing housework.  (See my review of Clever Cat for more about the Incompetency Defense.)  Bruce has an airplane mechanic friend whose wife asserts that he is terrible at washing dishes.  He notes that when they travel, the wife insists on taking the train.

He offers an ingenious solution for this problem.  At a party, instead of complaining about how your husband is terrible at vacuuming, a wife should go to another man and say, “John, would you come over and show Phil how to run the vacuum cleaner?  He’s having a terrible time with it, and women are just no good at explaining things.”

“After the party, Phil will complain to his wife that she made him feel foolish.  It will be tempting to observe that ‘foolish’ might actually be a pretty good word for a person who can’t master a sweeper, but if she were to innocently point out that, well, he just seemed to be experiencing such difficulty that he needed John’s help, he’ll get all huffy and insist that next time he’ll prove to her that he darn well can use a vacuum cleaner!”

Another suggestion is to start keeping score, giving a man two points every time he gets his clothes actually IN the hamper.

As you can tell, this is a useful and highly amusing book to read.  Besides these tips for women, there are also tips for men.  He provides a nice guide for men with what to say and what not to say after certain romantic movies.    After “Sleepless in Seattle,” for example, it is better to say, “I loved the ending of this movie!” than “I loved it when this movie finally ended!” 

He provides a great method for being spontaneous:  Buy twelve greeting cards.  “Try to find a section of the display that has soft pictures and words in cursive….  Next, get a calendar and a dart.  You’re going to like this part.  Open the calendar to January, and throw the dart at it.  Take a card and write on its envelope the date you speared with the dart.  Flip to February and do the same thing, and then on to the next month….  It is okay to make crowd noises with every throw, and if after you’ve done December, you want to declare yourself Champion of the World, fine, I won’t tell anybody any different….”  You are then to shuffle the cards and write “G” on the backs of six.  Give the cards to your beloved on the specified dates, including a gift if the card has a “G.”  “In this way, you’ll be totally surprising and spontaneous and thoughtful!”

I recommend this book to anyone who knows a man and would like to do a lot of laughing.

Copyright © 2005 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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