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Fried & Convicted: Rehoboth Beach Uncorked – Fay Jacobs (Bywater Books)

Buy from Bywater Books

Fish gotta swim and Fay Jacobs gotta fry.

As relentless as her beloved Rehoboth Beach tide, Fay Jacobs rolls in with Fried & Convicted: Rehoboth Beach Uncorked, another compendium of columns from Letters from CAMP Rehoboth and Delaware Beach Life. Now allied with the fine folks at Bywater Books, Jacobs will most assuredly keep the commentary ebbing and flowing for as long as the sea repeats itself in shells. And in these days of uncertainty and upheaval, having something to depend on is important.

Jacobs’s topics are neither unique nor incendiary. They’re mundane episodes of the suburban life most of us live, no different than the domestic humor of Jean Kerr and Erma Bombeck–two columnists I’ve mentioned in the same breath with Jacobs in other reviews of her work. And just like those two writers, she’s developed her own unique brand of quiet, gentle humor. Note, however, that doesn’t mean it’s slight or even the slightest bit “less than.” Taken in sequence with her other books, her latest is an addition to the chronicles of one queer life Jacobs has been building since she came out, telling her individual story while reflecting many of our own. In that sense, she is more of an iconoclast than the quaint, elderly(ish) Jewish matron she appears to be.

That she has, once again, reinvented herself–this time as a stand-up comedian–comes as no surprise to anyone who has read her work. The laughs, the point of view, and her uncanny sense of timing are all present in the text. Her droll delivery in person only amplifies them. I’ve gotten a chance to hear Fay read a number of times, and she’s always a delight–but her performance never distracts from the material, making it all the stronger.

But beyond that, I’m always impressed by the openness and sincerity in Jacobs’s work. Whether she’s drinking martinis or ziplining (or both simultaneously), her exuberance and zest for new experiences comes through. As her work is rooted in popular culture, a certain number of columns dealing with passing fads are less successful than the others, but even those provide a bit of nostalgia for days when we had things to think about other than Donald T—p, economic disaster, and the re-marginalization of queerdom. Indeed, Jacobs’ last few columns are about T—p’s installation.

Despite the magnitude of our recent political upheaval, it’s a comfort that queer writers like Fay Jacobs will continue to find humor amidst the horrible. If you’ve never read her before, this is a perfect place to start. If you’re already a fan, you don’t need me to convince you.

JW

© 2017, Jerry L. Wheeler

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Time Fries: Aging Gracelessly in Rehoboth Beach – Fay Jacobs (A and M Books)

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Fay Jacobs is a very funny lady. If you don’t believe me, just listen to her read once. I’ve had this privilege a number of times at Saints and Sinners in New Orleans, and she kills. Slays. Her timing is professional Borscht Belt, flawless and as dependable as the sunrise. In Time Fries: Aging Gracelessly in Rehoboth Beach, her fourth volume of columns collected from various publications, she takes on the subjects of aging and celebrating the joys of being queer, but really anything is fodder for Fay’s gentle sense of humor.

And it’s this gentleness that keeps her material classic. These columns are reminiscent of two of my favorite humorists–Erma Bombeck and Jean Kerr. They rely on shared cultural values and a sense of absurdity for their laughs instead of the mean-spirited snark that passes for humor these days. PG rated? Of course, but that doesn’t preclude its hilarity.

Like Bombeck and Kerr, Jacobs finds material in her domestic life with wife Bonnie and their two Schnauzers. From recreational vehicle trips to ziplining to getting married to meeting Angela Lansbury to the poignant passing of the aforementioned Schnauzers, Jacobs manages to find the heart at the same time she brings the funny. Having done my fair share of book readings at odd places, I can sympathize with the rural book fair she attended at the…

…Delaware Agricultural Museum, a place, as you can imagine, I had no idea even existed. It houses antique tractors, cotton gins, and all manner of rural artifacts…I arrived to discover I was to set up my display in front of the museum’s goat breed exhibit, which I found instantly hilarious and appropriate. After dragging a six-foot folding table, a lawn chair, and several book cartons from the parking lot to the door, I felt pretty much like an old goat myself. As I unpacked, I noticed I was underdressed. There were authors in full Civil War garb, writers who appeared to be dressed for a White House state dinner, and a couple of women who might have been palm readers and/or still dressed for Trick or Treat. The man next to me boasted of having published 30 different volumes about Hessian soldiers in the Revolutionary War, though his plastic spiral-bound books seemed to have been published by Kinko House.

The situation is absurd and Jacobs makes the most of it, setting her scene and working her characters like the trouper she is. This is a scene she (don’t hurt me) milks for all it’s worth, and one any writer who’s been on a book tour will understand. And although this one is particularly germane to authors, others in Time Fries are universal skewerings of aging, health care, marriage, and the eternal separateness of being queer. Information at the website indicates that this is to be the last volume in the Frying series, but that would be a shame because now, more than ever, we need a smile and not a smirk.

Thanks, Fay, for making us smile.

©  2014  Jerry L. Wheeler

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