When You Look Like Your Passport Photo, It’s Time to Go Home by Erma Bombeck

HarperTorch; Reissue edition (November 15, 1992), 288 pages

I never seem to learn my lesson. A catchy title almost always guarantees a flop read. I only read books like these “on the side”, to cleanse an overly “serious-themed” riddled brain ( I just read Lord of the Flies). For the past 2 days Ive been deliberating wether or not I should post a review about this book. I thought it can be a sound warning to those who, like me, are drawn to cheesy and catchy titles. I skimmed through online reviews about this book and they were ALL positive. “Hilarious!” “I never stopped laughing from first to last page”. To give credit where its due, I did find a few pages funny, but reading past the first 3 chapters, I felt like I was reading a stand-up comedian’s script about travelling. There’s a Harper Audio edition of this, and I think that would have been more enjoying. There are just some things that are better heard and not read.
So this is about a typical American couple from Ohio who has “more kids than they have backseat windows”. Sick and tired of being the perpetual house and pet sitter when their neighbors go off on vacations, Bombeck decided that they should start travelling as well:

“From here on in, we are going to be one of those families who feast at the banquet table of life. We’re going to drink in the beauty of majestic mountains, nibble at historical shrines, and stuff ourselves on beaches drenched in solitutde. The Bombecks are going to hit the road!!! By all that is holy, I will never host the Semples again!”
The family’s eyes were frozen on my clenched fist raised above my head. I was clutching the pregnant gerbil.

Sorry but I just had to roll my eyes at that. How much more slapstick can you get? The next chapters are all pretty much of the same pattern: I hate to generalize but its American humor at one of its worst: exagerrated and self-deprecating. Since this book is supposed to be humorous, the author just HAD to find something “funny” in every place they go to, even pathetically describing Papuan New Guineans as “little people who go around talking earnestly to belt buckles”.

The worst attempt to be humorous:

“In September 1987, I was asked to introduce His Holiness Pope John Paul II, who was to preside over a papal Mass in Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Arizona.
I was humbled by the honor and wanted desperately to do something special. I decided to welcome him in Polish, his native tongue.
The only Pole I knew was a seamstress who did alterations for me from time to time, so I said to her, ‘Tell me how to welcome the Pope in his own language.”
On the night before his arrival, I rehearsed the speech before a couple of priests in charge of the event. I took a deep breath before my big finish. ‘ Arizona vita otisa sven-tego yana pavwa druuuugeggo.”
One of the priests said to me, ‘Why would you want to tell the Pope his luggage is lost?’
I am not good with language.”

Sure its funny, but the UN-Funny part is..Don’t ask me how I did it, but that Polish phrase actually translated to “Arizona welcomes his holiness (saintly) Father John Paul II.”
A for effort in bending the truth for the sake of comedy.

There’s also a part when they went to Indonesia and watched a cultural/mythical play and while their guide was interpreting it, they fell asleep. I admire the honesty but I also found it to be a bit rude, in describing how scary the driving skills of cab drivers are in Jakarta, that she had to pray to the patron saint of all Indonesian passengers: Our Lady of Valium.

Good points of this book: how she described travelling in a tour group can be a pain and confining and the descriptions of the types of people who usually join tour groups.

I can’t help but feel that people who enjoy this book are the kind who travel to other places to remind them how good they have it ‘back home’.

Title: Trap
Cover:Bad
Humor: Worse
Rating: Never mind.

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One response to “When You Look Like Your Passport Photo, It’s Time to Go Home by Erma Bombeck

  1. Pingback: Anonymous

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