You want the good news or the bad news?

Carol Wright

By A Contributor

It might be more thrilling than watching Steve Martin chase a delivery truck down the street as he yells, “Hey everybody, the phone books are here! The phone books are here!”

Telephone directories are great for thumbing through, and after all, let’s be honest: there’s no salesman who could deliver a better pitch than Martin.

But Martin’s got some competition otherwise recognized as Niall Edworthy and Petra Cramsie, co-authors of “The Optimist’s/Pessimist’s Handbook: A Companion to Hope and Despair.”

What? No one has heard of them?

Well, excccuuuse me!

Edworthy and Cramsie have been around the block more than a couple of times. Apparently, these two are quite pleased and not so pleased with themselves.

They sense how others should feel exactly like themselves: always curiously gazing beyond the rainbow-hued horizon and always expecting the weather to turn horribly wrong.

They find it hard to make up their minds so they must settle for both the positive and the negative simultaneously.

Their book is actually two books in one, a clever reversible work: “The Optimist’s/Pessimist’s Handbook,” just like two sides of a coin. Readers can be very selective as to where to start and end.

No discrimination here. Everything is rosy and everything is a black rose.

With enlightening quotations from famous people, past and present, literary passages and diaries containing personal observations devoted to happiness and misery, it won’t be long before Edworthy and Cramsie will first earn a Pulitzer, with a well-deserved string of additional literary awards to follow.

It would not surprise anyone should this book suddenly replace “Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader.”

Furthermore, this book should be included in school curriculums throughout the United States and abroad.

However, with such enthusiasm comes vengence, and the good and bad attention it gets could become controversial to the point that the authors might have to go into hiding like Salman Rushdie. But, “The Satanic Verses” is an entirely different story.

Nevertheless, “The Optimist’s/Pessimist’s Handbook” should never be banned.

It should be available to library patrons, displayed proudly in all areas of the home and never, never thrown on the burning bush or middle of the street campfire, which would be the sequel to “Fahrenheit 451.” Bradbury would not stand for it.

In the optimist’s corner section of the book there is everything and everyone positive, from advice and boredom, to human nature, religion, science, truth, travel and many other categories.

What goes around, comes around is viewed from a particular angle of the optimist and likewise from the pessimist.

In the category of “Life,” from the optimist’s perspective, Kenneth Williams (1926-1988), British actor, stated, “If you feel that life is one of God’s jokes, there is still no reason why we shouldn’t make it a good joke.”

In the pessimist’s corner, “Life” was viewed by Quentin Crisp (1908-1999), from “An Evening With Quentin Crisp, as “You fall out of your mother’s womb, you crawl across open country under fire, and you drop into your grave.”

Or, as American Poet Edna St. Vincent Millay once remarked: “It is not true that life is one damn thing after another—it is one damn thing over and over.”

Under the category of “Order,” an optimistic approach can be seen in “An Essay on Man” (1733), by Alexander Pope: “Order is Heaven’s first law.”

Or, as President George W. Bush stated about “Order”: “You’re free. And freedom is beautiful.

And, you know, it’ll take time to restore chaos and order—order out of chaos. But we will.”

Within the category of “Politics,” Aristophanes (450-388 BC), Greek dramatist, spoke in a negative tone: “You have all the characteristics of a popular politician: a horrible voice, bad breeding , and a vulgar manner.”

And speaking of politics, Lord Berners (1883-1950), British composer, announced in negative fashion: “I don’t go to the House of Lords any more. I did go once but a bishop stole my umbrella.”

“The Optimist’s/Pessimist’s Handbook” is as much educational as it is simply fun. There are several editions to choose from: a 2008 hardcover edition by Free Press at $16.95, a 2010 paperback edition put out by Black Swan and this book, the 2009 paperback edition.

Edworthy and Cramsie seem to delight in poking fun at themselves.

Edworthy refers to himself as “robust,” an “over-sexed, eight-figure-millionaire philanthropist…who spends his days in a cold garage in the middle of nowhere typing nonsense into an old computer with one finger.”

His magnum opus, “Life is a Bowl of Toenail Clippings,” remains unfinished.

Cramsie says, “A day without a smile is like a day without sunshine.” (Wow, such pure poetry; one can almost taste the sunshine.)

She and her “dependants” live in “godforsaken, wind-tormented spot opposite the Black Mountains.”

Still, all is not so bleak as she rises to meet any challenge and tries to live idyllically above Herefordshire’s Golden Valley.

Carol Wright is a freelance writer and resides in Winfield.

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