Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Books

Review: Dave Barry has this fatherhood thing all figured out

With his 67th birthday coming up, it's not surprising that Dave Barry can fall into what he calls "geezer mode." But you can't just holler "Get off my lawn!" when the kid who's driving you crazy is your own teenage daughter.

The joys and jolts of second-round fatherhood are among the subjects of You Can Date Boys When You're Forty, a collection of new comic pieces by Barry. His career has included writing Pulitzer Prize-winning, widely syndicated columns for the Miami Herald as well as seeing his work become the basis for movies and a TV series. The Broadway play Peter and the Starcatcher, based on a children's book he co-wrote with Ridley Pearson, won five Tony Awards in 2012; he was a founding member of the legendary (some would say notorious) author band the Rock Bottom Remainders; and, of course, he has written dozens of bestselling books.

You Can Date Boys When You're Forty is the latest, and it's fully stocked with Barry's trademark skewed, self-deprecating humor and underlying sweetness, especially when he writes about daughter Sophie. Barry has a grown son from an earlier marriage, and Sophie is the child from his current marriage — young enough to be entering her teens just as her dad was turning old enough for Medicare.

Barry points out in the introduction that "this book isn't about parenting. It mentions parenting, but it also covers many other topics, including grammar, sex, camels, women, brain surgery, sex with women, how to become a professional author, airlines, Justin Bieber and death."

But his relationship with his daughter is a running theme and the main subject of the book's first (and one of its funniest) chapters, "Sophie, Stella, and the Bieber Plan."

In it, Barry recounts what, for a father, is "the ultimate sacrifice: I took my daughter to a Justin Bieber concert." Sophie was 13 when he and his wife, Michelle, took their daughter and Stella, her BFF ("This is a term that girls my daughter's age use to describe essentially everyone they know"), to see the Canadian pop star.

Barry is deeply impressed by his wife's dedication to scoring concert T-shirts for the girls. "If we ever go to war with Japan again, and they embed their forces deep inside heavily fortified caves on Iwo Jima again, instead of sending in the Marines, all we need to do is put the word around that the Japanese forces are in possession of overpriced Justin Bieber merchandise. Within minutes they will be overrun by moms fully capable of decapitating an opposing shopper using only their MasterCards."

He is far less impressed with Bieber: "The concert itself was also pretty brutal, lasting (this is an estimate) twenty-seven hours." But he's tenderly respectful of Sophie's futile but fervent effort to invite Bieber to her bat mitzvah by tossing an invitation onto the stage.

A chapter called "Manliness" includes Barry's account of his embarrassing attempt to teach Sophie how to do long division, as well as some manly fashion advice for young people: "As a general rule, do not wear 'ironic' clothing unless you wish to make the bold fashion statement: 'I'm still living off my parents.' "

Other chapters offer a hilarious critique of Fifty Shades of Grey (Barry and I are on the same page for that one), deadpan advice on becoming a famous author, and a commentary on junk mail for the over-60 set — lots of Viagra ads, because "the human penis is poorly designed. It is the Windows Vista of mammal penises."

The longest chapter is about a family trip to Israel, and its tone alternates between the comic and the serious. It's clearly a meaningful experience for Barry, especially as a father, but it's also got plenty of goofy tourist behavior on his part — among other things, he walks backward off a cliff and takes a scary ride on a camel.

But it brings him closer to his daughter as well. "As we gaze upon the beautiful blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea, which has played such a significant role in world history, Sophie makes an observation that reminds us why it is so important to take children along on trips to foreign lands.

" 'They have free wifi here,' she says."

Colette Bancroft can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8435.

Comments
Amy Hill Hearth’s ‘Streetcar to Justice’ brings back a forgotten story of black history

Amy Hill Hearth’s ‘Streetcar to Justice’ brings back a forgotten story of black history

During Black History Month, many students learn about Rosa Parks, the civil rights activist who in 1955 refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Ala., bus to a white passenger — and rode into history.A century before that, another black woman mad...
Published: 02/20/18
Notable: Five new books for young readers for Black History Month

Notable: Five new books for young readers for Black History Month

NotableBlack History MonthHere are five more newly published books for young readers, for Black History Month or any time.Chasing King’s Killer: The Hunt for Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Assassin (Scholastic Press, ages 12 and up) by James L. Swanson, w...
Published: 02/20/18
‘Hello, Universe’ and ‘Wolf in the Snow’ top American Library Association awards for books for young readers

‘Hello, Universe’ and ‘Wolf in the Snow’ top American Library Association awards for books for young readers

The American Library Association announced its 2018 Youth Media Award winners Monday during its midwinter meeting in Denver.The annual awards honor books, video and audio for children and young adults and are highly regarded guides for booksellers, t...
Published: 02/16/18
Review: Paul Goldberg’s ‘The Chateau’ sets sharp political satire in a Florida condo

Review: Paul Goldberg’s ‘The Chateau’ sets sharp political satire in a Florida condo

The election is fraught with wild allegations and vicious character assassination, accusations of corruption and kickbacks, misspelled messages and outrageous debates — and of course the Russians have their hands all over it.The 2016 presidential rac...
Published: 02/16/18

Events: Dr. Steven Masley to discuss ‘Better Brain Solution’ in Tampa

Book TalkRoslyn Franken (Meant to Be: A True Story of Might, Miracles and Triumph of the Human Spirit) will discuss and sign her memoir at 2 p.m. Feb. 22 at Seminole Community Library, St. Petersburg College, Seminole Campus, 9200 113th St. N.Dr. Ste...
Published: 02/15/18
Lauren Doyle Owens’ ‘Other Side of Everything’ a suspenseful look at life and death in suburbia

Lauren Doyle Owens’ ‘Other Side of Everything’ a suspenseful look at life and death in suburbia

Adel Minor dies alone, in her three-bedroom ranch house in a South Florida suburb. It’s the fire people notice first, a column of smoke rising amid the 1960s ranch houses of Seven Springs, but once it’s put out the firefighters find Adel, a widow in ...
Published: 02/14/18
Jeremy McCarter, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s co-author, tells us what he’s reading

Jeremy McCarter, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s co-author, tells us what he’s reading

NightstandJeremy McCarterMcCarter, 41, is the co-author with Lin-Manuel Miranda of the book Hamilton: The Revolution. It was McCarter who introduced Miranda to Oskar Eustis, the artistic director of the Public Theater in New York, and that introducti...
Published: 02/14/18
Review: David Pedreira’s ‘Gunpowder Moon’ a gripping story of murder on the lunar surface

Review: David Pedreira’s ‘Gunpowder Moon’ a gripping story of murder on the lunar surface

Gunpowder Moon drops the reader right into the action — and I do mean drops."Dechert stood at the crater rim and looked down," David Pedreira writes in the opening line of his debut novel. "Dionysius was a monster — two miles deep and wide enough to ...
Published: 02/09/18
Amy Bloom’s ‘White Houses’ explores love between Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok

Amy Bloom’s ‘White Houses’ explores love between Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok

Imagine what it would be like to love someone who belongs to the whole world.When we fall in love, we always compete with other people and forces for our beloved’s attention. Amy Bloom’s smart and tender new novel, White Houses, takes us inside the e...
Published: 02/09/18
Crimes and passion: Three very different kinds of love story

Crimes and passion: Three very different kinds of love story

We love lovers’ stories that pit them against all sorts of obstacles, and these new books do just that — whether it’s a young couple struggling with an unthinkable separation, middle-aged lovers whose affair is heightened by religious guilt, or a guy...
Published: 02/09/18