The Cursing Mommy's Book of Days

The Cursing Mommy's Book of Days

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by Ian Frazier
     
 

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Based on his widely read columns for The New Yorker, Ian Frazier's uproarious first novel, The Cursing Mommy's Book of Days, centers on a profoundly memorable character, sprung from an impressively fertile imagination. Structured as a daybook of sorts, the book follows the Cursing Mommy—beleaguered wife of Larry and mother of two boys, twelve

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Overview

Based on his widely read columns for The New Yorker, Ian Frazier's uproarious first novel, The Cursing Mommy's Book of Days, centers on a profoundly memorable character, sprung from an impressively fertile imagination. Structured as a daybook of sorts, the book follows the Cursing Mommy—beleaguered wife of Larry and mother of two boys, twelve and eight—as she tries (more or less) valiantly to offer tips on how to do various tasks around the home, only to end up on the ground, cursing, surrounded by broken glass. Her voice is somewhere between Phyllis Diller's and Sylvia Plath's: a hilariously desperate housewife with a taste for swearing and large glasses of red wine, who speaks to the frustrations of everyday life.
Frazier has demonstrated an astonishing ability to operate with ease in a variety of registers: from On the Rez, an investigation into the lives of modern day Oglala Sioux written with a mix of humor, compassion, and imagination, to Dating Your Mom, a sidesplitting collection of humorous essays that imagines, among other things, how and why you might begin a romance with your mother. Here, Frazier tackles another genre with his usual grace and aplomb, as well as an extra helping of his trademark wicked wit. The Cursing Mommy's failures and weaknesses are our own—and Frazier gives them a loving, satirical spin that is uniquely his own.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
The author of fluidly absorbing books like Great Plains has written a first novel featuring the "Cursing Mommy" character from the columns he's been publishing in the "Shouts and Murmurs" section of The New Yorker since 2009.
The New York Times Book Review
…funny and clever…With the Cursing Mommy, Frazier bridges the old-school gentility of the William Shawn-era New Yorker with the edginess of the Remnick years: he has created a comic-strip heroine for the chattering classes, a creature both endearing and diabolical, especially when disaster looms. Which is pretty much all the time…We expect our great humorists to do more than make us laugh. We follow them as they look at society (Twain), show us the dark side (Bierce) or find comedy in the absurd (Benchley). Frazier has imbued The Cursing Mommy with quite serious intent. The book offers oblique commentary on climate change, health care companies and the educational system. But with these issues the Cursing Mommy can cope. It's the little things that make her apoplectic…
—Judith Newman
Publishers Weekly
Bored and frustrated suburban housewife and mother Linda, aka the Cursing Mommy, curses every moment she's alive and has to put up with her life. Plagued with an unambitious and lazy husband who lives in his own world and doesn't help out in hers, she's also afflicted with an aging father with dementia who just won't and two sons whose own particular ways take too much time away from her book club and her drinking scotch. Using her day-book as an invitation into the story of her life and woes, Linda invites her dear readers to accompany her day-by-day through one year of her crazy, rotten, desperate life. Drawing on his New Yorker columns featuring the cursing mommy, essayist Frazier builds this ramshackle and rambling novel around this profane mother who appears to have watched one too many teenage gross-out movies and who copes with life with a salty tongue and a shallow mind. While Frazier's so-called novel tries valiantly to skewer the superficiality of suburban soccer moms with his satire, his main character's tiresome tirades quickly wears on the reader. (Oct.)
From the Publisher

“Ian Frazier is funny and clever and a wonderful distraction . . . With the Cursing Mommy, Frazier . . . has created a comic-strip heroine for the chattering classes, a creature both endearing and diabolical, especially when disaster looms . . . But here's the great thing about the Cursing Mommy, which perhaps accounts for her popularity--she's a caricature, but she isn't a joke. Thanks to Frazier's generous and gentle spirit, she isn't some suburban hot mess, though she is suburban and hot, and surely some kind of a mess. But she's also eternally optimistic.” —Judith Newman, The New York Times Book Review

“Ian Frazier is not a mommy, and as his best friend I can swear that he is not a curser in any way, yet this book, The Cursing Mommy's Book of Days, is the funniest book I have ever read on the subject of moms and the crazy bliss that makes up their life. Being and Nothingness? Read this instead, for it is even funnier than Frazier's other book: African-American Women Writers in the Diaspora: A Reconsideration of Morrison, Walker, Dove, and Frazier.” —Jamaica Kincaid

“[The Cursing Mommy's Book of Days] is not only very funny but may actually remind you of the occasional frustrations of your own everyday life. Sit down on the floor with a big scotch and read it.” —Joe Peschel, The Boston Globe

Kirkus Reviews
Nonfiction writer Frazier (Travels in Siberia, 2010, etc.) delivers his first novel, an uneven comedy of domestic disasters. Inspired by his "Shouts & Murmurs" character from the New Yorker, the Cursing Mommy, in page-length doses, is hilarious. She skitters from one impossibly ruinous situation to the next, ending the day with a boozy balm under the covers. Her daily blog offers advice and meditation techniques for other harried ladies, though the Cursing Mommy, an odd pastiche of foulmouthed comic and Martha Stewart, ends most posts either furious or defeated by the treasures life flings her way. The question is whether Frazier can move his Mommy from the compact page to the full-length narrative. Alas, Cursing Mommy's shtick grows old, and there is little plot to prop her up. Husband Larry is foundering at work, but Cursing Mommy might be able to smooth the problem with her questionable charm, as the Boss is besotted by her violent outbursts. Sons Kyle (who swoons and rashes up at school) and Trevor (heavily medicated to prevent either sociopathy or pranking) bring little joy to Cursing Mommy, as most of her weekends are spent "volunteering" for school building repairs or bringing Trevor to his therapist. She takes seriously the self-help advice of modern-day sage M. Foler Tuohy, a composer of opaque bons mots. But when the red-faced guru runs off with her best friend, she curses the day she got her book group to switch from anti-Bush biographies to Tuohy's goofy inspirationals. There is some closure to the year's travails, though one suspects the Cursing Mommy is simply cursed, unable to escape the Promethean-like tragedies of domestic life. There have been many great satires of the domestic world (Fay Weldon comes to mind), but Frazier's Cursing Mommy seems trapped within her own joke.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780374709495
Publisher:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
10/02/2012
Sold by:
Macmillan
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
256
Sales rank:
1,098,157
File size:
381 KB

Read an Excerpt

The Cursing Mommy's Book of Days


By Ian Frazier

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Copyright © 2012 Ian Frazier
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-374-70949-5



CHAPTER 1

JANUARY


TUESDAY, JANUARY 4

And so, we set out. Ideally, this daybook would have started on Saturday morning, January 1, but Larry and I had to be in Encino. A client of Larry's invites the whole office out there to stay over in his gigantic house for New Year's Eve and New Year's Day every year. This client brings in a huge amount of business and Larry says we might be sleeping in the car if it weren't for him, so of course we have to go. And I do mean we, because the client is a big believer in wives attending, though they don't have much to do. Husbands, on the other hand, the client isn't so crazy about. That's another story.

As a result, we weren't here for New Year's Day. We flew back on the second, and on the third I drove to the assisted living to see my fucking father.


TUESDAY, JANUARY 4

I feel that I must start this day, month, and year over again. Just thinking about that weekend and then the trip to the goddamn horrible assisted living makes me want to put that nonsense far, far behind. I will clear my head, get a refill on my coffee, and go back to the kitchen table where I began.

We must always remember to be grateful for what we have. On this winter morning, with the temperature in the twenties and snow covering the ground outside, I am grateful just to be sitting here sheltered and indoors. My eight-year-old, Kyle, breaks out in hives and faints if you look at him cross-eyed, and he's probably doing exactly that right now in gym class, and any minute the phone will ring and it will be the snotty assistant principal, and I will have to go out and hope the car will start so I can pick up my swooning son. But that hasn't happened yet. Who was it who called worry "negative prayer"? I will keep my hopes and prayers positive on this first day (fourth, technically, as I already explained) of our journey year.

The children had such fun in the snow yesterday. I was at the fucking assisted living, Larry was down in the basement doing something or other with his boxes of capacitors, and the kids had an absolute ball outside, he said. God knows he probably wasn't paying much attention. From where I sit in my favorite kitchen chair I can see the snowman they made. I am grateful for my children's happiness and the small monument to it remaining on our front lawn.

Actually, as I look more closely at it, it's not so small. Moving to the front window I wonder how they ever built a snowman that high! In fact, it doesn't really resemble a snowman ...

The reason it does not resemble a snowman, I now see, is that it is not a snowman, it is a snow penis. A giant snow penis on my front lawn. How could I not have noticed it before? I got back from the fucking assisted living after dark, that's why. They did quite an inventive job of it, with large snow testicles, as well. This must have been Trevor's idea. He is going on twelve, going on whatever age you can be sent to prison. He got poor Kyle to go along.

Those of you who keep up with my regular Cursing Mommy columns know that at some point in almost every one of them—okay, every one of them—the Cursing Mommy regrettably becomes frustrated with some aspect of daily life, and she flips out, screams curses, breaks things, gives people the finger, etc. Today, on the first or fourth day of our journey year, the Cursing Mommy is not going to do any of that. Serenity is the new watchword. I am now simply going to pull on Larry's boots, put my coat on over my bathrobe, go out in the front yard, and knock the revolting snow penis down.

Now I am in the yard and I smack the snow penis—why did I forget my mittens?—and ouch! Shit! The thing is solid ice! It has frozen solid overnight, I see. So I am giving the snow penis a good swift kick and GODDAMN FUCKING STUPID SNOW PENIS! FUCKING GODDAMN THING IS LIKE—OUCH!!—FUCKING CEMENT! I'LL KICK YOU DOWN IF IT'S THE FUCKING LAST THING ... AHHH! SHIT! I SLIPPED ON THIS FUCKING SLIPPERY ICE AND I'VE FALLEN IN THE SNOW!! LYING IN MY FUCKING FRONT YARD IN MY FUCKING BATHROBE! FUCKING GODDAMN LARRY! FUCK GEORGE BUSH! FUCKING GODDAMN JOHN BOEHNER, THAT FUCKING ASSHOLE!! ...

[pause]

In just a minute I will get up and go inside. Let fucking Larry knock the fucking thing down when he gets home. It will melt eventually anyway.

Oh, what a fucking horrible day this is going to be.


WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 5

"Open thou my lips, oh Lord, that my mouth may show forth thy praise."

Do we always remember to praise? I'm not talking about praising our spouse or our kids or our coworkers, the "self-esteem routine," though of course that's important, too. I mean praising the power or powers that placed us and everything around us upon this spinning cinder we call our earth—yes, I mean exalting generally the simple beauty of the world. We should devote ourselves to this every instant from the moment we awake. First thing when we open our eyes in the morning we must say, "Open thou our lips, that our mouths may show forth thy praise!"

I wish I could always be conscientious about that, but sometimes, unfortunately, I am not. For example, this morning Larry was up, sitting on the edge of the bed and putting salve on his toe fungus, and I woke and looked at the ceiling and sighed, and I forgot to praise. Instead, I said, "Shit."

Of course, I am the Cursing Mommy.


THURSDAY, JANUARY 6

Hello again, my friends, on another dark winter's morning. My, it is cozy here in the kitchen—and out on the patio, and even in the yard, for that matter, where according to our outdoor thermometer the temperature is a shirtsleeve sixty-eight degrees. Thank goodness the "snow sculpture" is no more. Yesterday's torrential rains that also filled part of the basement washed most of it away. Often all we must do in life is wait, and our wishes will be fulfilled.

This morning I am counting my blessings. That goddamn snow penis is gone. Water got in some of the boxes of Larry's capacitors down in the basement, apparently. I suppose that's not a blessing, technically, but what the hell.

Do you sometimes have your first cocktail at 8:15 a.m.?


SATURDAY, JANUARY 8

I meant to write an entry for yesterday, but Kyle stayed home from school. All of Christmas vacation the kid is a picture of health, and then when classes start again, suddenly he feels poorly. The awful assistant principal did, in fact, call. I couldn't find my cell phone, which I spend my life looking for, and all at once there's this muffled ring and the cat goes shooting about five feet in the air. He'd been sleeping on it. Molkowski, assistant principal, on the line.

Kyle was in a swoon again in gym, no surprise. Molkowski gave me the usual blah-blah-blah and I went and got him. I kept him indoors all of yesterday, but I made him go back this morning. His school now has some goddamn mandatory fucking Clean the Boiler Room Day every Saturday, because they repealed the school levy. Parents are supposed to help, too. I went along and took some rags, and Kyle and I made a morning of it. He managed not to faint from the horror of it all, poor guy.


MONDAY, JANUARY 10

One old tradition I absolutely adore is that of devoting every Monday to the family's weekly baking. Bright and early every Monday, my gramma Pat used to get up, pack a lunch for Grampa Hub, give him his bicarb, and shoo him out the door. Then she would light a Chesterfield and start to bake.

And I do mean bake! Gracious, what that woman couldn't do. Gramma Pat is long dead of emphysema, but I can still smell the delicious and enticing aroma of her kitchen, mixed with secondhand smoke, as I used to hang on her apron strings and watch her every gesture. Pies, cakes, fruit crumbles, strudels, lebkuchen dusted with powdered sugar and the odd bit of cigarette ash—all appeared effortlessly, as if by magic. She never used a lighter. While she rolled dough with her left hand, she could fold a match from a matchbook and light it with her right! She also did all the family's bread baking—white and brown bread, both—and would never think of buying store-bought.

Can you excuse me for a second? It's the goddamn phone.


TUESDAY, JANUARY 11

Sabrina from the fucking goddamn assisted living cheerfully ruined yesterday by calling just to let me know that "Dad" had assaulted another patient. I had to drop everything and go over there, natch. Enough said. Let us return to:

"The Cursing Mommy's Baking Day (continued)"

God, I hate my fucking father.

I'm sorry, that was what the shrinks call an "intrusive thought," and it has no place in the making of this pie. Excuse me.

Today, just because I thought it would be a hoot, I am following a tasty-sounding recipe for chocolate pie that I found printed on a pie pan I bought yesterday at Food Superior. I get a lot of my best recipes from just such unexpected places. I have already melted the semisweet chocolate in the microwave, as instructed, and added a cup of strong coffee, and then combined these with the instant chocolate pie filling, for an extra chocolaty flavor. I then crushed the gingersnaps for the crust, and they are on this wax paper here.

I now spread the crushed gingersnaps evenly in the pie pan. After this step, I carefully pour in the filling mixture. Do I now add the extra cookie pieces to the top, or do I do that after baking? And to what temperature do I preheat the oven? And how long do I bake the pie? I will consult the recipe.

And now I see there is a problem. The recipe is on the bottom of the pie pan. Which I have just covered with gingersnap crust and a two-inch-deep layer of chocolate filling.

Oh, fuck everything.

I fucking give up. Why did I not see that the FUCKING MORONS PUT THE DIRECTIONS ON THE FUCKING INSIDE BOTTOM OF THE FUCKING PAN? All right, I'll just scrape a little bit aside—oh, no! I tipped the pan over! AHHH! The fucking gorpy filling is spilling out! Trying to catch it—AHHH!—I slip and fall on the kitchen floor! WHAT A FUCKING MESS!! I'M ON MY BACK ON THE KITCHEN FLOOR IN A PUDDLE OF FUCKING CHOCOLATE GORP!! FUCKING STUPID PIE-PAN COMPANY! FUCKING MITCH MCCONNELL, THAT FUCKING ASSHOLE! HELP! HEL-L-L-L-P!!!

[pause]

Actually, it's not so bad lying here, except for the overpowering chocolate smell. I swear I'll never eat chocolate again. Why did I ever try this? I detest baking. In just a minute I'm going to get up.

Oh, what a fucking horrible day this is turning out to be.


WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 12

This morning I want to tell you about a little game that I sometimes play with myself. It has brightened many a day for me, and perhaps it can do the same for you. This is a secret I have never told anybody, but if you like it, and if you find it works for you, I won't mind at all if you pass it on.

Sometimes, when I am feeling challenged by life, as, for example, right now, when I look out the back window and see that the Honda has a flat tire again, and I'm going to have to call the recently released criminal tow truck driver who runs the AAA account around here, and I'm wondering what kind of cheap party balloons Steve's Sunoco has been selling Larry in the guise of car tires—Jesus, Larry, why didn't you fucking deal with this before you left for work, or at least give me a heads-up?

As I was saying, at moments like this, I play the Elsewhere Game. In my mind I simply go elsewhere, to a distant place that's marvelous and far away and steeped in leisure, the kind of place where people like the client of Larry's in Encino that I was telling you about who insist on the presence of certain wives on company business weekends spend all their time. To myself, I say sentences I would be saying in that lovely, faraway place:

"Think I'll take the boat out this morning! Haven't been to Lower Matecumbe Key in a while! Maybe there are some new shells washed up on the Gulf side! First let me make sure all the wire transfers are going through! Which sandals would I rather, the flats or the slingbacks? Should I walk down to the dock, or ride my bicycle?"

Oh, God, it's not working. Perhaps with a pitcher of sangria ...


THURSDAY, JANUARY 13

Trevor, our older son, is a wonderful boy. His mind goes faster than his words can keep up with, one of his teachers has told me, and as a result he lashes out and sometimes exposes himself in class. We are working on this. He does not always tell the truth. "The truth is not in him," as Grampa Hub used to say about the serial killer, I forget his name—not that Trevor is in such company! Ted Bundy. That was the name. Grampa Hub and Gramma Pat were fascinated with that case.

My husband, Larry, does not take enough time with Trevor, I think because he (Larry) is often at work on the weekends, and when he's home he's very involved with whatever he does in the basement with his boxes of capacitors, and that occupies a lot of the attention he might give his son.

Do you ever get panic attacks? I think I'm having one right now, thinking about Trevor and how in God's name he will ever get through life. He is just a horrible, wretched child. I know it's wrong to say that about my own son but he should be under police supervision all the time and I absolutely do not know what we're going to do with him. That is wrong to think, yes, I am aware of that, but what should I do? You tell me.

Trevor, honey, if you ever read this, please use words to express your reaction, not hitting or knives.


FRIDAY, JANUARY 14

Still sort of panicked about Trevor, so I thought I would try a simple yoga exercise. I'm going to put on my yoga slippers—which are made out of stitched-together pieces of real yoga mats!—and then I stand, centered and quiet and mindful, in the vicinity of the liquor cabinet. I let my mind drift freely, accepting whatever comes into it, and to my surprise, I'm thinking, "Walnut liqueur."


SATURDAY, JANUARY 15

God, that stuff was awful. I am still gagging, and the horrible moldy walnut taste will not leave my mouth. Sabrina called again. This is not the way I want my mouth to feel as I drive in mysteriously heavy Saturday morning traffic to the goddamn fucking assisted living.


SUNDAY, JANUARY 16

Although I consider myself a deeply spiritual person, I am impatient with the creeds and dogmas of organized religion. (Actually, it's the creeds I am impatient with, while the dogmas I don't so much mind.) The one therapist who would accept Trevor agreed to see him only at seven o'clock on Sunday mornings, so every Sunday I get him up and dressed and drag him off, not to his great liking, obviously. Then I wait in the car in the parking lot while he has his appointment, and after it I drive him to McDonald's and then home. This is our usual Sunday. I am not a regular churchgoer, in other words.

This morning as I waited in the car in the therapist's parking lot, I was fooling with the radio and one of those radio preachers came on. The guy had a quavery, ancient voice that sounded like he was practically in the grave. His topic was the story of Mary and Martha, in the book of somebody or other, when the Lord comes to visit at their house. The Lord is sitting there in the house preaching, and one of the two women, Mary or Martha, I forget which, "busies herself with much serving," while the other sits at Jesus's feet.

The one who is serving—let's say it's Martha, I have a fifty-fifty chance of being right—says to the Lord something like, "Hey, Lord, tell Mary to help me, because I'm doing all the work and she is just sitting there." And he replies (I'm paraphrasing), "Martha, you are too busy with small things, you should be like Mary, who knows that it's better to sit and listen to me"—i.e., you, Martha, are just wasting your time.

The near-death radio preacher's message was that we are too much concerned with worldly cares when really we should yadda yadda yadda. Okay—got it. The more I thought about it, though, the stupider it seemed. These ladies have Jesus over to their house, he brings an entourage, the apostles or whoever are standing or sitting everywhere in the living room, they've all been out in the hot Holy Land sun, and they want something to eat. Martha is running around preparing it and setting up tables and chairs and so on, and the Lord tells her she should be more like her sister, who has not lifted one finger to help. I began to wonder how in hell—excuse me—the good Lord managed to get away with that. Seems to me, the minute he said that to Martha, both he and the do-nothing sister would have been looking at a flying platter of baby goat with lentil sauce heading straight their way. How the good Lord kept that woman from chucking something right at his haloed head has to be ranked as one of the true miracles of the Bible, up there with the loaves and fishes and the parting of the sea.

Or am I missing a deeper meaning here? Could be. The Cursing Mommy might not be the best person to go to for Bible commentary on this Sunday morning.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Cursing Mommy's Book of Days by Ian Frazier. Copyright © 2012 Ian Frazier. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author

Ian Frazier is the author of Great Plains, The Fish's Eye, On the Rez, Family, and Travels in Siberia, as well as Coyote v. Acme, Dating Your Mom, and Lamentations of the Father, all published by FSG. A frequent contributor to The New Yorker, he lives in Montclair, New Jersey.
Ian Frazier is the author of Travels in Siberia, Great Plains, On the Rez, Lamentations of the Father and Coyote V. Acme, among other works, all published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. He graduated from Harvard University. A frequent contributor to The New Yorker, he lives in Montclair, New Jersey.

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