ORIGIN early 17th cent.: via French from Italian gazzetta, originally gazeta de la novità (because the news-sheet sold for a gazeta, a Venetian coin of small value)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Complete Idiots

Wow. The SPX (Small Press Expo - an independent cartooning and arts festival), took place this weekend in Bethesda, and once again, it blew me away, just as it has done every year that I've attended. These people are not jaded! They are not blasé! Au contraire, they are fresh. They are alert. They are open-minded, hopeful, witty, fun, quirky, independant, eccentric (everything I dreamed of being when I was a little girl). The atmosphere is friendly, even cozy, it's like all the kids have gotten together with no repressive bosses or overprotective parents hovering over their shoulders. A breath of fresh air. I came away feeling playful.

In this vibrant ambiance of eclectic creativity, I met two idiots. I'm not kidding, these are real people: their names are Robbi and Matthew and they are the creative force and the elbow grease behind... Idiots'Books. After only 10 minutes chatting with them, I felt like we were partners in crime. What had first caught my eye (so many stands, so little time) was one of their collaborative creations, a small, almost tiny, book entitled The Baby Is Disappointing. I casually picked it up and to my utter delight, I discovered an irreverant work that is at once hilarious and totally true. Wait! Did they really, in this age of The Child We Must Fear, dare write and illustrate such realities as "The baby is disappointing. It lies about and yowls. There are moments of minor satisfaction, but frankly we had expected more." (And that is only page 1!) I laughed out loud. I howled out loud. Keep in mind that I am the mother of three children (all older than 21 and whom I adore) as well as a teacher of 6-, 7-, 8-, and 9-year olds.... and that I write for children. What I often find lacking in the world of children-adult relationships is a healthy dose of deprecation, a dash of satire, and a pinch of irony, ie, let's not (we adults) take ourselves and them (the kids) so seriously - they'll turn out OK, and no, it's not necessary to micro-manage every second of a child's life, and yes, it's OK not to be "in love" with your progentiure at every turn. It's also possible to continue being an adult even after becoming a parent.

The playful wickedness of Roald Dahl comes to mind, the radical snarkiness of Lemony Snicket comes to mind, Amélie Nothomb and her subversive childhood antics come to mind, the guilt-free practicality of French parents comes to mind!! (From the vantage of the American cultural landscape, Judith Warner's book Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety, warning of falling into the trap of "total parenthood" and becoming slaves to one's children, also comes to mind.)

The entire book is a hoot. The last two pages are very funny and recounts the moment when the baby is finally asleep... but only for so long. "...We cross our fingers and hold our breath and watch the clock as the baby sleeps. We count the seconds as they pass, bracing ourselves for decades to come."

Conclusion: Check out their Baby book and check out the others. I bought several (After Everafter, Ten Thousand Stories, and Nasty Chipmunk) and am planning to use them with my first graders who are more than capable of understanding the complexities of the human conditon, of discussing subjects we usually shy away from - subjects that these two idiots address in their funny and irreverant books.

Their logo, if it is indeed a take on "out of the frying pan into the fire," is competely à propos. You'll either hate these guys or adore them! So, here's to the idiots, to Robbi who draws the pictures, and to Matthew who writes the books. I believe they're on to something. Check out their website at www.idiotsbooks.com. Even though it is only a homeopathic dose of irony in a bland world of treacly sweetness, it may be enough to start a revolution.


  1. Sounds like a book I could read and re-read! It reminds me of a book written by an English author, Libby Purves, called "How Not To Be A Perfect Mother", which was first published in 1986. I got it in 1996... in French!
    A BBC journalist and a practical mother, she has also published many other hilarious books, including How Not To Raise A Perfect Child.
    I have bought scores of both volumes and offered them as birth presents to many a young Mom.

    I was also wondering about this couple's decision to take the name: Idiots'books. Is it a wink to all the guides for dummies, or all the Idiot's guide to play chess, and so on and so forth?

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