Spoofs & Satire

Reviews of Books Written by My Ex-Girlfriends

Whether I acted as catalyst or played the well-meaning muse, one thing’s for sure: My writerly exes are a prolific bunch. But are they any good?

Getting Over Jeff Barnosky by Olga Elson

In Elson’s follow-up to I Like Kyle Better than Jeff, the heroine of this snappy yet lugubrious comic novel has spent her dating life chasing after guys like Jeff Barnosky—dashing, suave, and perpetually working on writing the first American novel without consonants. Not good enough for her. She prefers dating people who are twice her age, live with their aunts, and work at bookstores. Or that guy from the bar who smells like almonds.

The scene in which the unnamed narrator (pretentious!) reveals that she has fallen in love with her private bowling instructor because he makes her “octo-orgasmic, like a great sensual elephant” strives to capture the zeitgeist but feels strained and totally unrealistic, especially given Ms. Elson’s public proclamations that she does not deserve pleasure because of her inability to pick up a 7-10 split.

The Olive Garden of Good and Evil by Colby Philips

While it may be gripping to read one woman’s descent into madness and despair, it seems implausible so much traumatic injury could have occurred on a single blind date. As Ms. Philips herself admits during a 20-page monologue that begins, “I want to stab him in the eye with my fork,” the breadsticks were all-you-can-eat, so there’s no way “Evil Jeff” (would a less direct moniker have sufficed?) could ever have devoured the last one. Though the remainder of the book is similarly sloppy, the “Hot Waiter” chapter is justly lauded, but it does go on a tad too long for this reviewer’s tastes.

The Secret History of the Lousy Boyfriend Society by Veronica Keller

In the late 1600s, a woman enters a convent in the hilly Luxembourg countryside. On the surface, it appears she has devoted her life to prayer, chastity, and God. The truth is that she is actually a visitor from the future, sent by a woman of the 21st century to secretly alter Biblical passages to warn future generations of a scourge known as Jeff Barnosky. Her work includes the famous passage from Ephesians 6:16: “Though thou shall yearn for something more chill, thou shall be doomed to suffer the plagues of the 1980s, including the horrific ‘first date at a Mötley Crüe concert’ phenomenon and most Billy Crystal movies,” and this memorable warning from Revelations 6:9: “It shall be easier for an elephant to juggle five papayas then it is for Jeff Barnosky to satisfy a woman.”

The Hipster Girl’s Guide to Dating by DJ Magna Cum Louder

Too many women spend too much time trying to make it work with Jeff Barnosky, according to this pseudo self-help book. Its author says that instead of prolonging their agony, women should dump Barnosky as quickly as possible and prepare themselves to meet the hipster of their dreams. He waits out there somewhere, wearing an ironic T-shirt, drinking a Pabst, and slouching toward a Yeah Yeah Yeahs concert. Though he might smell a little funky, and that painstakingly grown chin stubble scratches your thighs, he’ll never suggest staying home on a Saturday night to watch Rick Steves’s European Classics. How this book has stayed on the bestseller list as long as it has, this reviewer would like to know.

Diseases and Their Symptoms, Sixth Edition by Emily Pilkington, et al.

Informative, concise, and written with in surprisingly breezy prose, this is an indispensable reference book for any home, school, or office. The lay reader should be warned that there are some lapses into indecipherable medical jargon, such as, “One of the primary causes of tinnitus (ringing of the ear) is thought to be Jeff Barnosky, especially when he spends two hours a night rattling on about how great the Replacements were, even after they kicked out Bob Stinson.” Or this: “Though not widely studied, it is believed spontaneous cataracts can be triggered by the traumatic—though thankfully rare—sight of Jeff Barnosky in the shower, using that loofah he bought at Whole Foods.”

Memories of That Time in the Place by Michelle Rosenberg

The scars of a rocky relationship can last forever, but this reviewer wonders if the world needs yet another volume of Rosenberg’s thick, multi-layered, and very-long-sentenced prose scrutinizing her two-month courtship with Jeff Barnosky. The ninth in Rosenberg’s seemingly interminable “The Limpid and the Mauve” series, Memories of That Time in the Place contains no fewer than 340 pages about the time she and Barnosky went to the zoo. Maximalist to a fault. The nadir of the epic is when Barnosky returns a striped sweater Rosenberg got him for Christmas, a moment describes as “the death of a time, a sweater-marked time, in which love and existence seemed to fuse into something more than existence, something above transcendence, only to be felled from its Icarus ambitions by the polite pretension that ‘it didn’t fit,’ which was truly just saying that ‘we didn’t fit’ and that our love—like all loves—must be returned for a gift card or possibly a set of jersey sheets.”

The Glixthor Chronicles 7: The Destruction of the Jeff Machine by Andréa Guinness

It’s been four Mercurian centuries since the destruction of Earth by the Hormonians, and the lone survivor from that decimated planet is a cyborg named Jeff Barnosky. In his broken-down space pod, the Toyota Corolla, Cyborg Jeff attempts to flee relationship after relationship, an interstellar serial monogamist. In this latest installment of the Glixthor Chronicles, Andrea Guinness continues to struggle to create an even vaguely interesting context for her intergalactic stalking of the poor robot, who to most people will just seem like a bundles of wires and metal looking for an input for his charger. Yet, Guinness won’t let him be. She insists on ending each chapter with a scene of unthinkable (and sometimes unrepeatable in a family magazine) torture of the robot Barnosky. When a writer relies on such clichés as forcing Jeff Barnosky to watch ancient video of She’s All That on Saturday nights while her protagonist/alter ego, Goddess Andréa of the Glixthorians, talks on the phone to her friend Dana about the guy she works with who she clearly wants date instead of Jeff, we find it hard not sympathize with the Jeffborg. Instead of pleading for mercy, he replaces her mascara with robot grease, and though the author wants us to hate him, we couldn’t help but know where he was coming from.

Jeff Barnosky lives in Philadelphia and has been published in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Pindeldyboz, Exquisite Corpse, and Yankee Pot Roast. He is currently working on a young adult novel named Hold My Life. More by Jeff Barnosky