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House of Cards: Love, Faith, and Other Social Expressions Hardcover – Bargain Price, October 1, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Dickerson was a struggling 20-something with a creative writing M.F.A. when he submitted a writing portfolio to Hallmark in part because he had an idea for a novel set at a greeting card company. He takes the job of writing those cards, but what seemed like a natural outlet for his highly verbal sense of humor quickly degenerates in a profoundly alienating environment, where his self-acknowledged ridiculously intense and enthusiastic personality rubs almost everybody the wrong way. The tone is set early—Oh Jesus, I just sent out a cry for help, Dickerson thinks at his first holiday party, and everybody heard it, and no one is coming to save me. His personal life isn't any better, as he struggles to maintain a long-distance relationship with the only woman he's ever dated while coping with the frustration of being a 28-year-old virgin. The behind-the-scenes material is diverting (you'll never be able to read the word special on a card again without smirking), but it's the broader drama of the profoundly un-corporate Dickerson's doomed efforts to fit into the corporate world that gives the memoir its staying power. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"The only thing Dave Dickerson does better than poignant, funny greeting cards is this poignant and funny first book. A wordsmith, a charmer, and a witty self- effacer, Dickerson proves himself a gifted narrator of hilarious, compassionate prose."
- Sara Barron, author of People Are Unappealing

"House of Cards is hilarious and amazing. What a marvelous relief it is to discover, at long last, that there's life on other planets, specifically Planet Dickerson in the galaxy HooBoy! It's amazingly wonderfully weird."
- Bob Shacochis, National Book Award-winning author of Easy in the Islands and The Immaculate Invasion
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover (October 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594488819
  • ASIN: B002ZNJWQ8
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.3 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,120,570 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David Ellis Dickerson is an author and humorist, best known for his regular contributions to public radio's "This American Life," where he often talks about his conservative religious upbringing. His TAL appearances include "Quiz Show" (where he also wrote the unusual chapter titles), "The Ten Commandments," "The Devil Inside Me," "Social Engineering," "Bait and Switch," and "Know When to Fold 'Em."

He is also the creator of the YouTube web series "Greeting Card Emergency," where he makes greeting cards for situations that don't normally have them. Greeting Card Emergency has been featured on the public radio shows Talk of the Nation (twice), Weekend Edition, and Studio 360 (twice), with more on the way. For this reason he is sometimes called "the greeting card laureate of public radio."

He is fascinated by the possibilities of web publishing as an adjunct to conventional publishing, and has been using it to publish long essays that can't be placed in magazines (How Tolkien Sucks), or odd little ideas that are too quirky to sell to a mainstream audience (look for pieces soon on the Creation Museum and the cultural history of "In His Steps" and its imitators). He is currently in the middle of writing a seriocomic serial novel titled "Superhero Superhighway" on the website Jukepop. Because we can do serials novels again! Thanks, internet!

His fiction and humor have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Story Quarterly, The Gettysburg Review, Camera Obscura, and Year's Best Fantasy and Horror. He has a Ph.D. in American Literature from Florida State University, and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona. He currently lives in Tucson, where he is working on several things at once. He'll keep you updated if anything happens.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Thomas on June 17, 2012
Format: Paperback
When browsing the typical reviews for this book, it is remarkable how this author's most pronounced talent seems to be making his readers squirm. Reasons mentioned are the author's "over-sharing" of tasteless stories as well as his sexism.

I do have to agree with the squirmers. Reading this memoir is like watching a train wreck in slow motion: ugly, destructive and ultimately pointless. What he reveals about his state of mind and personal exploits bodes poorly for him as a human being as well as a writer. Even though he has earned the proper credential for a writer, and MFA, it is painfully obvious that he fundamentally lacks two basic qualities for successful writing (or living, for that matter): insight into himself as well as into others. His defining characteristic is an all-encompassing narcissism that makes either one of these impossible.

For example, he spends a great deal of time writing about other people's religious convictions. Whenever he does, he portrays all of them with the same broad brush. Not once does he allow that religious people may actually have variant beliefs. (Incidentally, the book is falsely advertised as the author is a former fundamentalist but really a Catholic during the part of his life that the story tells--but "fundamentalist virgin" may have a greater commercial appeal than "Catholic virgin?") When talking about his own beliefs, he proclaims himself liberated from his caricatured fundamentalist background. If that were so, why the rants that ultimately lead nowhere but into nasty, self-righteous religious bigotry?

Women fare equally poorly.
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26 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Silicon Valley Girl VINE VOICE on September 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
For a 28-year-old man, ex-fundamentalist David Ellis Dickerson has remarkably little life experience. After getting his master's degree, he's only ever worked at one job, as a clerk at a government agency. He got engaged to the first woman he ever dated. Worst of all, he's a virgin.

What he's good at, and loves doing, is writing word puzzles and funny poems. When he gets the chance to work at the Hallmark greeting card company, he thinks he's found the perfect job. So he moves hundreds of miles away from his family and fiancee and, for the first time in his life, tries to fit in in the corporate world.

You can pretty much guess what happens next. Between his own quirkiness and the vagaries of corporate culture, David has a tough time at Hallmark. He does make some good friends. He also alienates several bosses and has an excruciatingly hard time figuring out the unwritten rules at his new workplace.

This is a well-written, cleverly observed, and very funny book. I also found it mildly disturbing, because I think Dickerson sometimes reveals more about himself than he realizes. It's still not clear to me, for instance, that he understands how deep the divide was between his own "romantic" but essentially self-centered fantasies about his relationship and his fiancee's actual needs and desires. And it takes the poor guy forever to figure out that some of his perfectly innocent habits are annoying the crap out of his patient but uncommunicative coworkers. At many points in the book, I felt simultaneously sympathetic and incredibly irritated with him.

Ultimately, though, I think Dickerson's perhaps unintentionally unsparing portrait of himself is what makes this such a good book. This was a one-day read for me; I picked it up and almost literally didn't put it down until I finished it. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys funny memoirs about quirky people.
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22 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Avid Reader on February 21, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Surely any book which ends with the protagonist wanking into an umbrella in his cubicle and traipsing off into the sunset to start a graduate degree in literary theory is intended as farce? You need serious talent to carry a character so irrepressibly dimwitted--John Kennedy Toole talent, Richard Russo talent, Thomas Pynchon on a good day--and unfortunately Dickerson doesn't have what it takes.

I won't go into the endless, uninspired writing on sex: as one comment already said, "TMI." Frankly, the same goes for the protagonist's moribund ramblings on religion. This book isn't just monotonous, isn't just childish and unthinking and badly written, it's also memorably sexist, with a cast of two-dimensional women who exist to play mommy to this dude or screw him (or talk about screwing him, or be paid to screw him, as the case may be). I've got nothing against a bad book, or a boring book, or a wish fulfillment book, or a book that really could have been quite interesting had it not been written by a complete dunderhead, but a bad, boring, sexist book--if this book were a person, it would be that self-absorbed, self-congratulatory guy with a beard in that literary theory class in graduate school. If you've ever known that kind of guy--that sexist, self-satisfied, speechifying guy--ask yourself if you need--if you really need--to read his memoir on his sexual awakening.
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17 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Amanda Hamm VINE VOICE on October 11, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I actually finished this book, but it was a bit painful. There are a few parts that offer an inside, and even mildly amusing, look at writing greeting cards and some surprisingly poignant moments showing what it's like to move to a new city and try to make friends. This explains the second star.

I should warn you, only half this book has anything to do with writing. The rest is about sex. Even in a memoir, there is such a thing as over-sharing. And the parts that were about writing were mostly Mr. Dickerson patting himself on the back over and over about how much smarter, funnier and more talented and creative he is than all the poor schmucks around him. There is a lot of whining about how frustrating it was to be so underappreciated and how he was being suppressed by all the un-intellectual people around him. Did you know he has an MFA? He only mentions it about every ten pages.

The book is also offensive to a lot of people. He is constantly referring to his "fundamentalist Christian" upbringing, but only as the butt of a joke. He spends about half the book professing to be a Catholic, without any knowledge of what that actually means, which is also insulting. I suspect even many atheists would be put off by his -I have all the answers because I'm so smart- attitude. Then he spends some time trying to pick up women by trying to be "ordinary" and not "use interesting words." This was after numerous allusions to the fact that his fiancée was the only smart woman he'd ever met.

But I kept reading because I was waiting for the punch line. The part where he says, and that's when I realized how incredibly pompous I was. But that never happens.
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