Municipal bondage: one man's anxiety-producing adventures in

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9781573225106: Municipal bondage: one man's anxiety-producing adventures in

Investigative humorist Henry Alford has worked as a chauffeur and an earlobe model, studied at the Wilfred Academy of Beauty, and hired a nude housekeeper to see if she'd do windows. Now he offers readers a collection of "arch, smart, and exquisitely absurd" (The Village Voice Literary Supplement) pieces that "demands to be savored" (New York Times Book Review.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

The journalistic equivalent of a performance artist, Alford dreams up antic minidramas in which he can play at least a supporting role, stages them, and then reviews the results. On the evidence of the compilation at hand, the Manhattan-based freelancer (Mademoiselle, Spy, Vanity Fair, etc.) will do almost anything for a quiet laugh. Here, for example, he reports on close encounters with a clutter consultant, nude housecleaners (one man, one woman--at different times), modeling agencies, and the staff at upscale auction houses to which he had consigned bogus heirlooms. Included as well are droll accounts of the author's unavailing attempts to secure part-time employment at Macy's and to pass a dog-grooming test (with an uncooperative cocker spaniel in tow), plus his four- day stint as a volunteer chauffeur for the governor of Colorado during the 1992 Democratic convention in N.Y.C. If Alford occasionally misses the mark--with, say, nominal expos‚s of a profit-making enterprise ostensibly devoted to advancing the laggard cause of poetry or a Caribbean resort catering to licentious singles--his offbeat consumer guides are dead-on. Along the way, he rates the Big Apple's bed-and-breakfast accommodations, self-improvement videos, and the trendy experience of eating in the Plaza Hotel's kitchen in preference to its dining room. Among the set-piece essays is a series of bizarre interrogatories that address apocryphal issues (e.g., ``What If the Bront‰ Sisters Had Been a Heavy-Metal Band?'') and offer a wealth of possible consequences (``1848 [they] lock manager, Mrs. Rochester, in attic''). These one-liner sideshows are an acquired taste, but at his best--which can be good indeed--Alford offers genuinely rueful takes on comic aspects of the urban experience. -- Copyright 1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Booklist:

A renegade journalist whose "preferred mode of inquiry" is idle speculation, Alford nevertheless rouses himself to conduct "comic investigations" so that he can amass all the facts about such crucial matters as what exactly a clutter consultant can do for you; whether singles can register for gifts at department stores (after all, they like presents as much as couples); or what exactly a "nubbins" looks like. Alford will subject himself to extreme humiliation and endure any number of potentially disastrous absurdities to get his story. Other escapades include the hiring of two nude housecleaners to see if they do windows; volunteering as a driver for the 1992 Democratic National Convention in spite of never having driven in New York City traffic (he was assigned to the crusty governor of Colorado who tolerated his callowness and encouraged him to eat desserts); and going on a test-taking spree for various occupations that culminated in the spectacular failings of both human and dog-grooming exams. Amusing as these goofy inquiries are, it's Alford's dry-martini humor and unfailing wit that get you: he is simply devastatingly deadpan, tears-to-your-eyes funny. Donna Seaman

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Henry Alford
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Alford, Henry
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