Life’s Little Annoyances Review
March 27th, 2008

It’s a sad fact of life that some people are annoying. Really damn annoying. It’s truly amazing to think of all the different ways that human beings manage to drive each other insane. It’s an even sadder fact of life that for most small annoyances, there really isn’t much you can do about them.

With that in mind, we have Life’s Little Annoyances, where New York Times writer Ian Urbina has compiled an entire book of anecdotes about irritating incidents that have happened and continue to happen to everyday people.

At 185 pages, LLA presents a fairly large collection of these small annoyances and the ways in which various individuals have attempted to fight back against the source of their annoyance. The annoyances are broken down into several major categories including bad drivers, telemarketers, and paying the bills, among others.

Sound like a great idea for a book? Yeah, I thought so too, but sadly, the execution just isn’t very good.

The first major problem I have with this book is that it appears to be written for the NY Times audience in that there is no profanity at all, save for maybe one or two exceptions. When I imagine people going through the experience of being annoyed or dealing with the source of their annoyance, I picture rage, anger, frustration, all of which often involve profanity. Hell, the victims in the stories don’t even use an angry or hateful tone of voice to describe what is annoying them, they only give straightforward reasons for why the particular person or event is annoying.

Think about it, when the average person gets annoyed by a bad driver, for example, they do not just sit there and say to themselves, “Golly, that driver is annoying.” It’s more along the lines of, “That motherfucking jerkoff! How the fuck did that douchebag ever get his license?”

Such angry and/or profanity-laced accounts of the annoying episodes contained in the book would have gone a long way to help myself, and I imagine many others, identify with the annoying situations being presented.

The other major problem is that, for many of the accounts, the text is written in such a manner that it assumes that the reader will agree that the solution devised by the person seeking revenge was clever and funny. Sadly, this is often not the case. All too often, I read through each anecdote coming away with the impression that the person who acted out against the source of his annoyance was either a moron, or just plain corny. In fact, it kind of - dare I say it - annoyed me (sorry, had to say it).

Take for example, the lady in Manhattan who is annoyed by the fact that Starbucks Coffee houses are seemingly everywhere, making it extremely difficult to find an independent coffee house. The woman fought back against this “annoyance” by creating a website that allows users to enter their zipcode and locate the nearest independent coffee house. Ha ha, get it? She built an anti-Starbucks website…get it? The book is full of this kind of lameness.

Also, in many of the scenarios, the source of annoyance is a lowly customer service worker who is only following company policies and trying to do his or her job. The customer being annoyed then goes out of his or her way to gain revenge on the employee, rather than the company itself, and the reader is supposed to laugh at the alleged cleverness of this person. People who act like this are assholes, and not the cool and funny kind. They’re just regular assholes, to be despised and looked down upon.

All of these major problems culminate to provide a largely unfunny book.

Only about once per chapter on average, will there be a story that is actually humorous. For example, one story tells of how a man fed up with tailgaters adjusted the nozzle of his rear windshield wiper so that when activated, it would spray the driver behind him. This sort of thing actually sounds like funny and satisfying revenge and is exactly what LLA needed more of.

As I read more and more pages without laughing or even being that amused, I grew increasingly upset at the quote on the cover. Apparently, some guy from USA Today declared that this book was “Screamingly Funny”. Well guess what, some guy from USA Today is a huge god damn liar. Now, I realize that reviews are very subjective, especially when they involve works of humor, but "Screamingly Funny"? Bull-fucking-shit.

Overall, if you enjoy simple, gentle humor, or find picking on minimum wage employees hysterical, you may get some enjoyment out of this book. Otherwise, you’re ultimately left with a disappointing humor book that simply fails to live up to its genre name. It’s too bad, because it was such a great idea, but the funny just isn’t there.

Final Opinion: Not Recommended

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