Saturday, March 3, 2012

Him Her Him *Again* The End of Him (and my library patron disgrace)

I finished Him Her Him Again The End of Him last week, the day before it was due back to the library. I went online to renew it so I could actually reference the book while I wrote this post, and I got this message from the Los Angeles Public Library system: "You owed us $50 once 2 years ago. Sure, yeah, you PAID it. But we can never trust you again. NO RENEWALS FOR YOU."

My shame, dear readers, it consumes me.

So let me try to remember something about this book that I read a million years ago last week.

This is like the Seinfeld of books: clever, hilarious, but ultimately about nothing in particular. Patricia Marx is a comic writer for Saturday Night Live, and that may have something to do with why her book reads like a collection of comedic sketches (but, like, funny ones).

"Her" is a neurotic, underachieving American undergraduate at Cambridge University. "Him" is narcissistic philosopher Eugene Obello, the guy she falls for to a MOST unhealthy degree. Her obsession with him isn't deterred by his repellent personality or eventual marriage to another woman or the birth of his child or the advice of everyone in her life to cease any and all future communications with him. She explains her fixation in this way:
"Don’t think I didn’t go out with other guys during those years. But that isn’t this story. And besides, none of the guys is worth telling you about. None had read Zeno in the ancient Greek. None had even read Zeno. None usually had a copy of the Magna Carta in his pocket. None spoke about the joys of reciting poetry while looking out o’er the prow of a boat. None had 'learn to play didgeridoo' on his To Do list. None could sing the rules of cricket. None had brown eyes with kind of yellow-specky things. None kissed the way Eugene did, which wasn’t that special, I have come to see, but this was before I came to see that. None put salt on his pizza." (p. 124)
I could tolerate these characters ONLY in a fictional universe. If I knew people like this in real life, I would not find them amusing. I would slap them repeatedly in the face and change my phone number.

I think the tone of the book is what keeps it in Entertain-Me-With-Your-Shenanigans World and out of I-Can't-Just-Stand-By-While-You-RUIN-YOUR-LIFE Land. I'm convinced that this is what Steve Martin was aiming for with Shopgirl. But where his characters are self-involved and unlikable and the narrator  pretentious and aloof, Marx's characters are self-involved and unlikable and the narrator adorably self-deprecating.

Look at her being all quirky and whatnot.
"We were having instant coffee, which I found delicious because it was Dutch. It didn’t bother me that the coffee contained specks of crud—all the more bohemian. I later realized I’d been drinking metal fragments from the electric kettle. I am including this detail in case I get a mysterious disease and the doctors need help with the diagnosis." (p. 13)

You're weird. But I like you.
And also this:
"My grandmother also told me that she—my grandmother—believes everyone has a determined number of footsteps to use up in a lifetime, and, therefore, it is foolhardy to exercise since you will only exhaust your quota sooner and die." (p. 4)
I can get behind that theory, because it means I will live FOREVER.

And look at this alternate cover art! 

It looks as though she's intending to END him with a book. This amuses me.

SOURCEMarx, Patricia. (2007). Him Her Him Again The End of Him. New York: Scribner.


  1. I love characters that you only love in a fictional universe but that in everyday life you would want to murder! I sense, therefore, that I should probably read this.

    Also, ZOOEY! I love her. As does the whole rest of the world, I realise. But I've loved her a looooong time...

  2. Hmmm... Don't think this book would be my cup of tea.  But I do really like the second cover art, with the woman wielding that book with intent.  

    Also, I didn't know libraries could revoke privileges like that, especially since you paid the fine.  Maybe it's something they can fix if you go in and talk to them?  

  3. ZOOEEEEEEY! Have you seen the SNL she hosted? There's a sketch devoted to making fun of her and how quirky she is. It's amazing.

  4. I didn't know they could EITHER. It shows up as a "soft block" on my online account. Like I'm on probation or something. It makes me very sad.

  5. Wow your library sounds like they really hold a grudge. I think you should start taking out books under your husband's name.

    This book sounds hilarious, especially the whole instant coffee, drinking fragments of kettle, possible need to alert House, etc. Not a fan of the title of the book however. It's so awkward to say.

  6. Ha, until I read this review I was in fact under the impression that this book was about a woman who killed her lover...

  7. Quotes do it for me. I will read this now.

    I'm sorry the LA Library's bein' all mean to you. It seems unfair if it was over a year ago to keep that hanging over  your head and so forth. You should write them a letter being like "I CAN DO PENANCE,. GIVE ME BACK MY RENEWALS."

  8. Quotes do it for me too! I usually have to restrain myself from writing posts that are just a compilation of quotes I liked.

    The library kind of hurt my feelings. I'll have to see what sort of blood offering they require to restore me to my former good standing.

  9. I thought so too! I mean, there's a knife on the front cover...and the title suggests that he will be "ended." It's definitely misleading but enjoyable despite the lack of stabbings.

  10. Funny that you should mention taking out books under my husband's name because he's the REASON I had a $50 fee. I was letting him read a book I checked out, and he left it on top of someone's car. I'm assuming it ended up somewhere on Sunset Blvd., hopefully in some bored homeless person's shopping cart. Anyway, he never reported the book lost because he was holding out hope of finding it, and the late fee climbed to the absolute limit and then they tacked on the fee for the lost book. And THEN he kept forgetting to pay it so I got impatient and paid it myself so I could look at the library again without feeling overwhelming shame.

    So, yes...I SHOULD use his library card. And purposely lose the book. Muahahaha!