F*cking Argentina and 10 More Tales of Exasperation
It’s Not You, It’s BFJ, one of the eleven humorous short stories in Gregg Greenberg’s collection, F*cking Argentina and 10 More Tales of Exasperation, has the protagonist breaking up with the love of his life because he can’t abide she’s a huge fan of Billy Joel. The author cleverly works seven of the artist’s hit song titles into the story for emphasis.
This is only one example of Greenberg’s whacky wit that will have you chuckling with relatable moments. “You may be right, (he) may be crazy”, but since “(I) Didn’t Start the Fire”, I’m using the occasional lyric or title from a Joel song where appropriate in this review.
“Honesty is something seldom heard”, but it rings true in Weinberger’s Back-to-School Night, a tortuous tale of a father attending back-to-school night for parents of children in kindergarten.
In F*cking Argentina, the South American country is anthropomorphically depicted as a deadbeat trying to hit up a wealthy acquaintance for a loan. Historically it appears that’s “Just the way (they) are.”
Greenberg is “Only Human” and “allowed to make (his) share of mistakes” and he does. You have to be a Broadway buff to understand the significance of Officer Krupke Strikes Back and even then it’s not funny.
Likewise, it’s a double fault for A Journeyman Tennis Player’s Prayer. A very select audience may enjoy this but not being one of them I can’t attest to their sense of humor.
Malodor on the Number Five Express is also a bit off. The whiff of intolerance and elitism emanating from the protagonist isn’t appealing.
But Greenberg recovers with The Last Couples Dinner. It’s about the guy we all know, the “Big Shot”, who has to have “the last word, last night … know(s) what everything’s about”.
A dutiful son accompanies his elderly mother to a stage performance only to discover upon leaving the theatre she’s forgotten her handbag. You may have “Seen the Lights Go Out On Broadway”, but it’s nothing compared to the pandemonium created by a lost purse, effectively conveyed in Panic in Shubert Alley. A Side of Exasperation on the NJ Turnpike could be described as a high-maintenance-family, fast food fiasco exacerbated by the “Pressure” of “you never-ever-ever stop the car when you are making great time”.
In Back Off Baxter! the author missed the opportunity to develop this frustration into a “Karen” pet confrontation. Instead, it’s the protagonist’s daughter who challenges the pet owner and “Tell(s) Her About It”.
Little Timmy’s Birthday Battle is presented as texts between parents, one at home and one in the car with his son trying to find the location of Timmy’s birthday party. Not being a rabid texter like the rest of the world, I had to go on online to look up the meaning of the text abbreviations and acronyms. Suffice to say, that kills the spontaneity of humor. BOMEI (But others might enjoy it).
The stories in F*cking Argentina are flawlessly written, well-structured, and a welcome respite. Something I haven’t seen “For the Longest Time”. The perfect anecdote if you’re taking yourself and your circumstances too seriously.
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