Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life

by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

There are so many memoirs being published these days that the ones I read sometimes blend into one gigantic life story in my head, but there’s no way I’m going to confuse Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life with any other memoir any time soon.  I had forgotten, until I reread it recently, what a delight it was to spend time with this self-described “ordinary” person, learning her quirks and hang-ups, her likes and dislikes, her everyday (and not) adventures (including the inspired way she attempted to get out of paying a parking ticket—you’ll love it, trust me), all arranged, encyclopedia-style, from A (“Amy” ;“Anxious, Things That Make Me”; “Ayn Rand”) to Y (“You”), with appropriate cross-references and clever drawings to supplement the text.  To get a sense of Rosenthal’s writing style (and humor), here’s how the Foreword to the book begins:

I was not abused, abandoned, or locked up as a child. My parents were not alcoholics, nor were they ever divorced or dead. We did not live in poverty, or in misery, or in an exotic country.  I am not a misunderstood genius, a former child celebrity, or the child of a celebrity. I am not a drug addict, sex addict, food addict, or recovered anything. If I indeed had a past life, I have no recollection of who I was.

I have not survived against all odds.
I have not lived to tell.
I have not witnessed the extraordinary.

This is my story.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life

  1. I’ve quite enjoyed Rosenthal’s children’s book. I quite like the premise of this one. I think I’ll have to read it!

  2. This is kind of a nice undercutting of the endless Oprah victim narratives….

  3. Thanks for recommending this, Nancy — I read it with “ah-ha’s!” when Amy put into words things I’d thought (often things I’d thought a long time ago).

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