Sep 03

Book Review: House of Cards

House of Cards: The True Story of How a 26-Year-Old Fundamentalist Virgin Learned about Life, Love, and Sex by Writing Greeting CardsHouse of Cards: The True Story of How a 26-Year-Old Fundamentalist Virgin Learned about Life, Love, and Sex by Writing Greeting Cards by David Ellis Dickerson

I met the author of this book, and as he says, he’s $5000 funnier in person. It’s not that the book isn’t funny (it is) it’s just unlike the real Dave, book Dave doesn’t come across as someone I’d necessarily like to be friends with. The book reminds me most of BORN ON A BLUE DAY, a memoir of a highly verbal autistic man with synesthesia and numerous compulsions, including the compulsion to memorize things. Book Dave has scary-high levels of sexual repression, zero social skills, and a catalog of obsessive tics, such as the need to pace and/or lie on the floor before composing anything.

This is more a book about Dave than it is about life at Hallmark, though, there is a lot of that. Dave paints interesting portraits of the people he works with, and of his daily life, although there’s more in what wasn’t said than what was said. For example, his boss is furious with him because he talks too much, and because he’s wandering too much, and Dave has no idea why. Book Dave presents it as a huge mystery, why were they all so passive-aggressive? In my experience, when someone says so-and-so did something “for no reason” it really means “they did it and I don’t know why,” or “I know why but I’m hiding it” ie. “my boss fired me for no reason” means (I didn’t know you had to show up every single day, sober.) “My girlfriend was mad at me just for calling her to say I love you” (for the twentieth time, drunk, at three in the morning.) Book Dave comes across like the point of view voice from a Jonathan Coltoun song. They want so hard to be liked, but don’t get that lurking and staring at people (or kidnapping them and bringing them to Skull Crusher mountain) is not the way to win friends. Real-Dave didn’t seem like that, but Book-Dave sounds like one creepy guy. Book-Dave also thinks about boobies far more than is really healthy. Also: never masturbate in the office. Just don’t. Mmmkay?

Book Dave figures out that people don’t like it when you inform them of facts against their will. I had pity for him here. I’ve had people mock me for using “big words” and I eventually came to the same conclusion that Book Dave does: life is too short to hang out with stupid people. Book Dave eventually migrates back to academia, the true home of brilliant eccentrics. I know a little of the story from then on from the Real Dave, whom I met, and I think there’s another memoir either published or in the works.

Is it funny? It depends on your tolerance for pain. Do you like super-nerdy inside jokes? Do you like seeing crippled kids kicked down stairs? If you answered yes to either one, this should be hilarious. It’s funny, but it tries for a “this is how weird these people were” kind of tone, and it fails, because I strongly suspect that the folks at Hallmark were completely normal (if a little dull). I don’t like to laugh at other people’s pain. I felt really sorry for him, crippled emotionally by a backwards religion, also hindered by a high IQ and very low social skills, but he went on so much about boobies (that exact word) and how much he wanted to have sex with every woman he saw (his plan was to hang out with them until he “wore them down”) that it negated my pity. I could have done without some of the sexual details too; those sort of squicked me out.

The feel of this book was like the clicheed script of the west Texas hick bumbling about in New York (or some other equally exotic and foreign culture) making lots of silly mistakes that we, the viewer, would know enough to avoid. Except, I don’t think that Dave is self-aware enough to realize that’s how it comes across, because he left out the important details. “My boss was mad for no reason” or “she didn’t want to go out with me” with utter bafflement. To me, it felt like if you were a neurotypical person, the reason would have probably been blindingly obvious, but book Dave never tells us why, because he himself doesn’t know. That he doesn’t even know is the saddest part of all. But maybe you’ll find it funny. And if nothing else, the poems are cute.

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