After reading Elizabeth Gilbert's Committed and re-reading Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking, I may just have hit my limit, for the time being, on marriage memoirs. I wanted to like Annabelle Gurwitch's and Jeff Kahn's duo-memoir, You Say Tomato, I Say Shut Up: A Love Story, but I just wasn't in the mood for it anymore.
I loved the title, and the format's interesting; in each chapter there's a "He Says" and "She Says" section, so you get each person's take on the one story they're telling, and of course they're widely divergent. Because both of these authors are, as my parents would term them, "entertainment people,"* their problems and issues are, of course, a bit wackier and larger-than-life than the more pedestrian problems among us non-entertainment types. But both are good writers, and I enjoyed the frequently profane language and the honesty. I may get this one back when I need a laugh someday.
But not all is fun and games in this couple's marriage. Fairly early on in the narrative they talk about their experiences having and raising their son Ezra, who was born with VACTERL, a rare series of very serious birth defects. Once again, they're honest about the challenges they faced, and they did so with admirable chutzpah. But it's never easy to read about kids who have struggles from birth (for me, anyway). I firmly believe all children should get a free pass on health problems until at least the age of 18, and it's a terrible deal when they don't. But, bless her, Gurwitch still manages to be funny:
"One of the unexpected side effects of having a kid with a chronic medical condition is that you are always primed to leap into crisis management mode at the smallest sign of trouble, so when Ezra was in kindergarten and he yelled from his bedroom, 'Mom, my tooth fell out,' I screamed, "Oh my God, Jeff, his tooth fell out; let's go to the hospital!' I was already herding a confused Ezra into the car before I remembered that young children's teeth are supposed to fall out." (p. 220.)
Looking for an offbeat double take on marriage? Look no further. I myself am going on the hunt for some non-marriage books.
*Kahn is a comedic actor and writer, and I still have a soft spot for Gurwitch from when she co-hosted TBS's "Dinner and a Movie" feature (when I was optimistic in college and thought I might one day make money, I was actually less cheap and sprang for cable along with my roommates). She is also the author of the book Fired! Tales of the Canned, Canceled, Downsized, and Dismissed.