NOTHING IS WRONG AND HERE IS WHY
By Alexandra Petri
We all have that one friend who has the rare ability to make us laugh, not just over cocktails or brunch, but even under the direst of circumstances. A friend whose dry wit, touching on everything from electoral politics to women’s equality, is more than just banter: It also punctuates intellectual points and helps frame opinions. That’s what it feels like to read Alexandra Petri’s new book, “Nothing Is Wrong and Here Is Why.”
In a collection of essays, some new and some repurposed from her Washington Post column, Petri revisits — and satirizes — various nightmares in our country’s recent sociopolitical history. Chapter titles include “How to Sleep at Night When Families Are Being Separated at the Border,” “A Humanizing Profile of Your Local Neo-Nazi” and “HOW DARE YOU DO THIS TO BRETT KAVANAUGH?” Through this literary pasquinade, Petri skewers the status quo, asking: Who needs an iota of intellect or humanity when blind dogma and senseless injustice will do just fine?
These essays remind us that, believe it or not, we are not actually living as extras in one extended “Saturday Night Live” skit. The memory of the American electorate is sometimes far too short, so it’s necessary to look back on the uncomfortable storms we’ve weathered, as we prepare for those still to come.
But don’t worry, with Petri as your guide you won’t be left in a straitjacket screaming, “Why, God? Why?” In her signature sarcastic style, she masterfully cloaks the absurdism of modern reality in farce — “the idea that women are people is actually a relatively recent innovation,” a state-legislator-turned-anatomy-teacher instructs his class, “but my extensive knowledge of science … reveals that actually they are vessels that may potentially contain people” — and makes us laugh at it. Or at least roll our eyes at it. These days it’s all some of us can do to keep from crying.
Of course, most of the utter ridiculousness in this book plays out at the most senior levels of both our federal government and the media. In one essay she reimagines the self-described “very stable genius” in an alternative universe where he actually is one. In another, she exposes the “Deep State” and — spoiler alert — you may be in it. She also takes us through a litany of ways to call racist comments anything but racist. “Remarks that march to their own drummer against the tide of political correctness,” she suggests. “Remarks that Starbucks will need to have a Conversation about.”
But it’s not all politics; there are also Petri’s whimsical takes on topics like motherhood and child rearing. Thanks to her hilarious style guide to “How to Parent Wrong,” you will laugh your way through questions you once took so seriously. Am I a tiger mom? Or do I practice free-range parenting? Or … free-range tiger parenting? According to Petri, this is when “your children can roam at will, but must drag pianos with them to practice.” And, for working women, guidance on how to speak in meetings: Instead of ordering, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!,” Petri suggests, “I’m sorry, Mikhail, if I could? Didn’t mean to cut you off there. Can we agree that this wall maybe isn’t quite doing what it should be doing?”
Whether or not you’re familiar with Petri, you will be pleasantly surprised by her expanding repertoire of droll mockery on our current state of affairs, bringing a much-needed perspective to the male-dominated genre of political satire. We’re living in a time when our national intellect is as suppressed as our voter turnout. Maybe, by forcing us to face everything that’s wrong, this book will encourage some of us to make it right.
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