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Friday, October 20, 2006

Dave Barry's Complete Guide to Guys

I may be one of the few readers left in America who hasn't read Dave Barry. I'm definitely the only one left in my household as the man has become my son's latest favorite author. He recently read Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson's Peter and the Starcatchers and Peter and the Shadow Thieves, falling in love with each of them.

I have to admit that I was a little hesitant when I first saw the titles as neither of those authors were particularly known as children's writers. Rather, Dave Barry was someone I associated with humor writing.

I'd already read about Dave Barry Slept Here from one of the Book Help Web contributors. She made a strong case for getting this book:

Dave Barry Slept Here is a comic Cliff Notes to American history that takes a lot of liberties with our glorious past - and has a great time doing it. High schoolers, please do NOT read this book until your classes are over. Otherwise you'll go into helpless fits of giggling every time your teacher mentions the Hawley-Smoot Tariff, Sir Walter Raleigh's lost colony, and other (formerly) serious topics.

The Miami Herald columnist (whom I read religiously every week) has organized his book like a typical high school tome - in chronological order, proceeding from one era to another. England Starts Some Fun Colonies segues into The Colonies Develop a Life-style, followed two chapters later by Kicking Some British Butt. He has also attached hilariously irrelevant discussion questions to the end of each section, and has included equally useful footnotes and a very selective index. (Among the entries: "Celtics, Boston," "Louis the Somethingth," and "Vader, Darth.")

Barry, who's earned a Pulitzer for his humorous commentary, is in fine form here. No historical fact is safe from satire; in one section, he provides his own wacky version of the Bill of Rights:

Then we had another contributor ring in with her endorsement of Barry's The Complete Guide to Guys. While it has some dated references to it that Barry would probably just as soon were removed:

"I saw Ed test-fire one of those babies once, and I can tell you that if those radical Muslin fundamentalist terrorists had had Ed on their team in 1992, the World Trade Center would now be referred to as the World Trade Pit."

Of course, that was written in 1995 before the events of 9-11. For the most part, the book is a light look at the difference between men and guys:

The premise in this 1995 New York Times bestseller is that the bearded gender can be divided into two categories — men and guys. Barry does not really try to define the term "guy." He does note, however, that: "One of the main characteristics of guyhood is that we guys do not spend a lot of time pondering our deep innermost feelings." He also offers example charts to help readers distinguish the difference. Here is one of the examples he lists in "Stimulus-Response Comparison Chart: Women vs. Men vs. Guys:"

Stimulus: A child who is sent home from school for being disruptive in class.

Typical Woman Response: Talk to the child in an effort to determine the cause.

Typical Man Response: Threaten to send the child to a military academy.

Typical Guy Response: Teach the child how to make armpit farts.

For anyone still confused, Barry offers the "Are you a Guy?" quiz. This is a chapter with various questions and multiple choice answers. This is similar to Cosmo quizzes (for any of the girl readers out there). The required scoring is provided at the end of the chapter.


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