Mid-life Crisis Can Be Fun!
(Kissing the Crisis, Kara Martinez Bachman, February 2017)
In Kissing The Crisis, the crisis is middle age, and the kisser is a New Orleans wife and mother of two. At 45, she is hypercritical of her physical shape and totally lost over the human condition. Something we all aspire to live for. The essays are well-crafted peeks at her life, dusted with fantasy conversations with friends, strangers, service people and her husband, who is going through the same thing. Only he gets a sports car. A red one.
Bachman is very descriptive and far too self-aware for her own good. There are passages that are cringeworthy, and passages that are very knowing. Mostly, it is all too real, as we humans seem to have little better to do than to regret what might have continued be in our all too short youth. Even the dog knows better. And as the epigraphs show at the top of every essay, so has it always been.
There is one essay, strategically placed third to last, that is a gem. Ground Floor Life plays off the potential meaning of ground floor, from the actual ground floor of an apartment building, to getting in on the ground floor of a new protest movement. It is thoroughly clever and very funny, as well as being once again, all too real. If E.B. White were still around, he’d put in the Subtreasury of American Humor, and Whit Burnett would put it in This Is My Best.
There are some definite rough edges to Kissing The Crisis. Bachman throws in gratuitous four letter words that add no value, except perhaps for the time her baby blurted one out in public. If that were the only instance, it would have been far funnier. She also hasn’t thought through some punchlines that she could have cashed better. But overall, it is a fast-paced rollercoaster of an essay collection. And Bachman fools nobody; right from the beginning you know she loves life, appreciates the hills and valleys, and all this is for the sake of a good laugh. On her. So be it.