Saturday, January 10, 2009

Your Mother Doesn’t Work Here by Kerry Miller

Oscar Madison said ‘In the Odd Couple’:

“You leave little notes on my pillow. Told you a-hundred-fifty-eight times I cannot stand little notes on my pillow.”

This book is a collection of little notes left for other people. Notes that lay down the law. Notes to remind. Notes that threaten. Notes that exasperate. Notes that belittle. Notes that create a chuckle.

Kerry Miller, the compiler of this book, first got the idea when he received pointed notes from his Grandma and then from his housemates. He started collecting the notes, created a web site and invited contributions. Miller was amazed at the avalanche of notes he received and he started to consider the role of the note in modern society. This book is a compilation of the best or the worst?

When you read this book think about what these notes reveal about the note writer, the note reader and their relationships. So many are written by landlords, housemates and neighbors so take note! Many of them are expressions of passive-aggression, some represent the unleashing of pent up anger and most are marked with exclamations. A few are clever, many represent the spewing forth of verbal garbage while others are designed to show up people’s faults to the world like the huge not-so-subtle sign placed by a landlord on the front of his rental property which read, “BOB, PAY YOUR RENT.”

The subtitle of the book offers the compiler’s summary: ‘Painfully Polite and Hilariously Hostile Notes.’ And like cigarette packets this book comes with a warning: ‘Contains sugarcoated anger’.

While Oscar Madison detested notes left on his pillow it is intriguing and sometimes instructive to see the many places where notes are left:

On the car windscreen: “Hello, I just wanted to personally thank you for taking up two parking spaces. Have a great day! Your neighbor.”

On the microwave: “For the love of God. STOP BURNING THE POPCORN.”

On the toilet (quite a popular location): “FLUSH this toilet or Die.” [Noah]

This is a book with a difference. A collection of notes. A notebook. It offers plenty of ideas and the reading and the writing will possibly be a cheap form of therapy.

Kerry Miller, Your Mother Doesn’t Work Here (London: HarperCollins, 2008).

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: One of the notes that prompts the title of the collection.