Synopses & Reviews
In this hilarious collection of personal essays, New York Times
bestselling author Merrill Markoe reveals, among other things, the secret formula for comedy: Start out with a difficult mother, develop some classic teenage insecurities, add a few relationships with narcissistic men, toss in an unruly pack of selfish dogs, finish it off with the kind of crystalline perspective that only comes from years of navigating a roiling sea of unpleasant and unappeasable people, and—voilà!—you’re funny!
But in Cool, Calm & Contentious, Markoe also reveals something more: herself. This is by far her most personal, affecting collection yet—honest, unapologetic, often painful, but always shot through with the bracing, wicked sense of humor that has made her such a beloved and incisive observer of life, both human and canine. In Cool, Calm & Contentious, she goes there: from the anal-retentive father who once spent ten minutes lecturing Markoe’s forty-year-old, Ph.D.-wielding brother on how to fold a napkin, to the eternally aggrieved mother who took pleasure in being unpleasant to waiters and spent most of her life, Markoe says, in “varying degrees of pissed off”; from the way she surrendered her virginity as a freshman in college (to her, it was “something to be gotten rid of quickly, then never discussed again, like body odor”), to why, later in life, she ultimately came to find dogs so much more appealing than humans, Markoe holds nothing back. It’s all here, in all its messy, poignant glory, and told the way only Merril Markoe knows how—with honesty, wit, and bite.
Cool, Calm & Contentious offers something for everyone—fans of humorous essays, fans of memoir, fans of great writing and finely drawn characters, fans of dogs, fans of talking dogs, and fans of reading about mothers who are so difficult and demanding they actually make you feel good about your own life. But most of all, this book is for the many fans of Merrill Markoe, who will finally get a chance to learn what makes her tick—and what makes her so funny and wise.
"Though her last two novels were canine-centric, comedy writer Markoe (Nose Down, Eyes Up) primarily branches out to the human world in this witty, affecting collection of personal essays though her own pack of four dogs does make regular, usually brief, appearances throughout. In 'Jimmy Explains His Wake-Up Technique,' flat-coated retriever Jimmy, Markoe's surprisingly articulate canine, compares his kamikaze morning leap onto her bed as a 'ballet.' But her most intimate essays recall her early years, as a high school student first in Florida and then outside San Francisco, in 'When I Was Jack Kerouac,' and later as an art student trying her hardest to be rebellious in college at Berkeley in the '60s, such as in 'Virginity Entrepreneurs.' Humor from a helpful list for everyday life in 'How to Spot an Asshole' to her own take on the popular TV show The Dog Whisperer in 'The Dog Prattler' is interspersed with serious issues, from sexual assault to coping with a parent's death. Several of her best pieces come from her experiences as a reporter on assignment, particularly in 'Saturday Night with Hieronymus Bosch,' where she covered the Fetish Ball in L.A. (think latex and spanking), and 'Roiling on a River,' about an all-women's rafting trip (think healing circles). Markoe, the original head writer for Letterman, is acerbic without being corrosive, endearing yet never saccharine." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Emmy Award–winning writer Merrill Markoe lives in Los Angeles, California, the garden spot of America, with four dogs and a man. She has authored three books of humorous essays and the novels Nose Down, Eyes Up; Walking in Circles Before Lying Down; and It’s My F---ing Birthday and co-authored (with Andy Prieboy) the novel The Psycho Ex Game. A lot of additional information about her—including a long bio, goofy videos, etc.—can be found at merrillmarkoe.com. After great amounts of hesitation, she is also on Facebook. But since she thinks about pulling the page down on a daily basis, check fast.