A Review of Bossypants Plus an Example of Judging a Book By Its Cover

So the book I should be reading right now, for book club, is ten ways to destroy the imagination of your child, by Anthony Esolen:

Anthony Esolen, ten ways to destroy the imagination of your child

Play dates, soccer practice, day care, political correctness, drudgery without facts, television, video games, constant supervision, endless distractions: these and other insidious trends in child rearing and education are now the hallmarks of childhood. As author Anthony Esolen demonstrates in this elegantly written, often wickedly funny book, almost everything we are doing to children now constricts their imaginations, usually to serve the ulterior motives of the constrictors.

I’m having trouble getting beyond the first two pages.  I fear it’s going to tell me I’m ruining my children’s imagination by letting them watch television.  I agree with Jen Fulwiler that “the idea that watching TV is bad for kids is an urban legend started by an evildoing madman who hates mothers.”

How am I supposed to cook dinner when I’ve got two whiny little girls who scream and shriek within 30 seconds of being left to amuse themselves, depleting my ample capacity to ignore them?  Is sticking them in front of Sesame Street for an hour ruining them for life?  Or worse, will make them grow up to be women office workers who “sit for nine hours and talk to people [they] don’t love, about things that don’t genuinely interest [them], so that [they] can make enough money to put [their children] in day care.”  The horror!  Do I need to move out to the country and escape the imagination-squashing banality of suburbia?  How am I supposed to do it, Professor Esolen?  My husband hates mowing the grass!  Come on, tell me!

Oh wait, you can’t.  You spend the day thinking big thoughts at as a professor at Providence College and then repairing your barn roof in blissful tranquility and solitude, and your wife tends to the children.

Actually, I don’t know what his wife does.  And maybe he takes his kids to the office every day.

Like I said, I haven’t managed to read his book yet.

Instead I read this:


Cover (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

which is fun.  It’s now apparent to me that Mindy Kaling modeled her book on Tina Fey’s.  I prefer Mindy’s, but Bossypants is quite entertaining.  I skimmed the parts about her work on 30 Rock and SNL because I’ve seen none of the former and only a few sketches of the latter.  Also, Tina’s book has more vulgarity than I would like and she delves into politics (from a viewpoint with which I disagree, which is annoying, how dare she).

There’s a quote from Bossypants I really like, and I think I’ll keep it in mind when I finally go at Mr. Esolen’s book for reals (and I will, because it’s for book club and because I’m probably all wrong about it):

When faced with [a judgmental person], ask yourself the following question: “Is this person in between me and what I want to do?”  If the answer is no, ignore it and move on.  Your energy is better used doing your work . . . .

True ‘dat.

I’m joining the “What We’re Reading Wednesday” link-up today, hosted by Jessica at Housewifespice. Thanks Jessica!!

19 thoughts on “A Review of Bossypants Plus an Example of Judging a Book By Its Cover

  1. I actually don’t mind mowing the grass. I find it rather tranquil since there is a lot less screaming and shrieking out there….

  2. Hi Laura,

    I’ve read more or less all of that book and I don’t recall there being a diatribe against TV (though there might have been it wasn’t the central feature). I recall more it being about how you organize their days (as in, school days) and the ways you teach them or introduce them to certain subjects or the kinds of books they read and the way they read them.

    In other words, it’s more of a book of pedagogy than child rearing (iirc, I could be totally misremembering).

    The thing I didn’t like it is that he wrote the whole thing as though it really were a book about destroying a child’s imagination, so it was written with all the bad things in the affirmative and the good things in the negative. Like “do make your child sit inside all day and never let him go out unsupervised into the woods.” and “don’t ever let them spend any time that’s not rigidly scheduled.” (I don’t know if that’s what he said, it’s been a while). It was just a little too cute and detracted from his point, for me.

    Curious to hear what you think of it and if my re-membery is correct.

  3. I’m having trouble getting through the imagination book as well, but more because his style, is just, I don’t know, kinda annoying. Sometimes he sounds like he is trying really hard to sound like he has never heard of electricity or Pokemon, I don’t know what is with his formality. Other than that, I like his ideas, and I didn’t feel like they were too condemning, but like you said, really hard to put into effect for people who do not homeschool, or cook, or clean, or live on a farm.

  4. I haven’t read all of it, and I do agree that the way he writes the book makes it difficult to read…BUT I love his ideas and the sentimentality behind it. He might be a little nostalgic for the way things used to be done (who can let their kid run around the neighborhood and beyond by themselves for hours at a time anymore?), but I do love his idea of promoting a sense of wonder in our children, which has really left an impression on me.

  5. You read Bossypants! Yeah, the language… did Mindy’s book not have so much vulgarity in it? I loved what she had to say about women’s bodies and self esteem, and later her description of magazine cover shoots! And yeah, she’s pretty liberal, but I loved her description of her no-nonsense conservative dad! That was too funny!

    That first book does sound a bit intimidating. We’re big fans of tv over here too. But look, my sister Mary and I (especially Mary) watched a lot of tv when we were little. Good stuff, you know, but a lot. She had the biggest imagination and interior wonderland of us all. And she’s a nun now so it didn’t ruin her!

    • No, Mindy’s book does not have as much vulgarity. . . . I really like the chapter on Tina Fey’s dad, too! . . . . Re: tv, I agree: I think it’s just a small factor in how a child is raised

  6. I’ve been sloooowly making my way through “10 Ways”. I like the overall thesis and most of the ideas that I’ve read, but there are several that are impractical for most modern parents. Like letting your children play outside in a big city unsupervised? Um, no.

  7. I can’t read books like that. Can. Not. I started reading “Hold on to Your Kids” and suffered nights and nights of panic attacks. I suffer from crippling motherhood shame-spiraling enough, I don’t think I need to add more fuel to the fire.

    But I love that Fey quote.

  8. so i apologize for being a chauvinist or something straight from the evil middle ages, but isn’t it, sort of, you know, our vocation as wives and mothers to be the ones with the exasperating, tear-making, mess factories that are small children? me personally, i’m fine on a barn roof with a hammer, but, well, you know. and does that mean that men and fathers automatically are banned or should be tomatoed for observing how we could run things smoother and better?
    that said, haven’t read the book, but have been wanting to for a long time.
    also, i don’t think it’s necessarily true that only bad parents should read books and good parents do. i think a lot of people want to be better parents but don’t have the support, experience, or example of how to do things differently from culture en masse.

    • Hi Jaime, I think fathers can write about how mothers should do things, and vice versa, but whenever you’re giving advice to a group you’re not a part of you have to tread very very very cautiously and humbly. That being said, the book is really not at all about television or mothering in particular so it’s all kind of moot. . . . And I don’t think only bad parents need to read parenting books. Obviously, I read a lot of them and I don’t think I’m a bad parent. It’s just that if you’re a good parent you can overthink it and lose sight of the forest for the trees and get down on yourself, and let the perfect become the enemy of the good etc.

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