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on November 4, 2010
I'm almost never compelled to write online reviews, but I feel like I need to write one for Simple Times because it's an absolute gem! If you enjoyed Amy's first foray into the world of how-to, I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence, you will love Simple Times. Everything that made I Like You such an immensely entertaining romp is back with a vengeance! It's comprised of the same kind of humor and the exact same kitschy, homemade style that makes I Like You such a blast. Take the brief crafts chapter at the end of I Like You, and imagine if it had continued. That is exactly what Simple Times is: A sequel to--a continuation of--Amy's first book. There are a couple differences, however. I Like You is a very real hospitality guide (in addition to being my go-to cookbook) and contains a lot of genuine information and useful tips in between the jokes. The informational/text portions of Simple Times, on the other hand, are mostly jokes. You will garner some real information from it (particularly the chapters on rabbit care and making sausage, if you're into those things), but by and large, the text is humor. I read it cover-to-cover and was constantly busting up laughing. As far as the crafts go, think of crafts you made in scouts or Bible school as a kid. This is mostly what you'll find in Simple Times. Some are jokes (i.e. using a plastic sandwich bag as a condom), but many are very real, and if nothing else, will act as a springboard for inspiration and ideas... which leads me to the instructions. When flipping through the book, make sure you don't skip reading the craft instructions. Many of them are uproariously funny! Some of the instructions are vague, but that's kind of the point of Simple Times--not necessarily to teach the reader step-by-step, but rather to inspire ideas and imagination. Visually, Simple Times is identical to I Like You. Colorful photos jump off of every page, and Amy portrays an array of characters, from Jesus, to a hormonal teenager, to [my personal favorite] a crotchety old candyman, all with incredible costumes and special effects make-up.

If you're buying Simple Times with the expectation of a serious, Martha Stewart-esque tome that will teach you how to create extravagant centerpieces for your perfectionist sister's wedding, you will be completely foiled. But that would just be your own fault, because if that's the type of book you're looking for, then what on earth are you doing with an Amy Sedaris book in the first place????? Notice how this book is listed not only in the crafts & hobbies section, but also under PARODIES. Sure, Simple Times is a crafts book, but mostly it's a rollicking good time. If you are unfamiliar with Amy Sedaris, do yourself a favor and look her up before buying this book--or at least take a careful look through the preview here on Amazon. She is first and foremost known as a comedienne, and her brand of humor is not for everyone.

The only other thing I want to mention is about the audiobook. The audiobook is FANTASTIC. Amy Sedaris and Paul Dinello read on it together, and it is crazy entertaining. That said, if you're looking at purchasing the audiobook, make sure you get the hardcover to go with it. Simple Times is all about the visuals.
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on December 12, 2010
This book has beautiful photographs, but the instructions are hard to follow. For instance, the steps for creating fingerless gloves is knit gloves, and then cut the fingers off. But how do I knit them in the first place? I'm so confused. I prayed for instructions, but, as always, my prayers weren't answered.

I appreciated the sections on crafting with disabilities, but it neglected to cover crafting for the humorless. I think a lot of 1-star reviews would have been 5-star reviews had the author included this important and so often under-appreciated group.

I would have given it five stars, but it didn't come with stickers.
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on November 6, 2010
Listen, I love this book. Love it. I am a child of the sixties, and I grew up with many of the crafts she demonstrates and gently pokes fun at. I mean, I can remember pop cans being turned into wind chimes, pipe cleaner art, pom pom art...I can even recall my (by then) senile grandma gluing glitter to anything and everything she could get her hands on. My own pride and joy was a bullfighting mosaic I fashioned out of corn and dried beans. It was a simpler was fun...but visiting it through Amy's tongue and cheek book is a blast. The pictures are great; the humor jumps out at you off every page. Enjoy.
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VINE VOICEon December 30, 2010
I am a HUGE fan of "I Like You" and recommend and use it quite a lot. I think it's hilarious yet practical. I use the recipes frequently and when I trot one out a party, I'm always asked about it (yes, in a positive way).

I asked for "Simple Times" for Christmas and I got it. And I read it completely and set it aside the same day. If I looked long & hard there might be one craft I'd like to try. Some of the instructions for crafts are "find someone to make this for you." Completely not what I was expecting. The crafts that are treated as "how-to" crafts are so junky and awful, I can't imagine anyone wanting to make them even as a joke.

There were a few crafty how-tos in "I Like You" (the fake cake, the rock baked potato, and the Greek dress spring to mind) so I was eager to read a whole book of them. I imagined it would be crafting treated with the same attitude as cooking & entertaining were in "I Like You." At least I expected a section devoted to googly eyes.

That irreverence is here, to some degree, but the subject matter is treated with such disdain that it's hard to feel like you're in on the joke. The categories weren't as funny as I'd expected and even the "fornication" section felt dull, considering Sedaris's considerable talent. It was like flat ginger ale: it looked good but the text didn't live up the the visual promise.

I don't know if an editor or someone stepped in and "improved" the final product or if someone was kissing a deadline and rushed this book to print but if I didn't know better, I wouldn't have guessed this was produced by Amy Sedaris. There's little of her sparkle or wit evident here except in the brief section about rabbits, which was far and away the best section of the book and is indicative of what I thought I'd get in an Amy Sedaris craft book. It's practical, adorable, and wacky. If only the rest of the book had been the same.
88 comments29 of 31 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
I have eagerly been awaiting "Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People" ever since I fell in love with Amy Sedaris' previous masterpiece of entertaining etiquette "I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence." How do I love Amy Sedaris? Let me count the ways. But one thing I never expected was to be turning to the woman that unleashed Jerri Blank (the ultimate 46 year old high school freshman) on the world for hosting, household (and in this bit of madness) crafting advice. This boozy and hilarious "how to" guide is both absurdly funny AND seriously practical, especially if you like your crafting on the more ironic side. I understand that some of the "serious" crafters out there are upset by some of the more colorful text, but this is clearly a comedic parody--Sedaris, in both books now, straddles the fine line between insanity and usefulness. Oh well, maybe she stumbles over it as well. Come on--the book is called "Crafts For Poor People!" Shouldn't that be enough warning for the more serious minded amongst us?

The book is expertly put together and absolutely beautiful. The photos and illustrations are influenced in equal measure by an intoxicated sixties housewife aesthetic and a certain trailer park chic. And Sedaris' whimsy shines in her costumes, characterizations, and bizarrely inappropriate selection of crafting ideas. The anti-Martha Stewart, Sedaris isn't afraid to embrace real life when confronting crafting challenges. A great deal of fun and worth every penny. I was so blown away by "I Like You" that I purchased 5 copies to give out for Christmas this year. I am now going to pick up additional copies of "Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People" to make it a bad taste gift set! It's time to unleash the genius and the madness of Amy Sedaris on my friends that haven't had the pleasure--and this is the perfect vessel. KGHarris, 11/10.
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on November 13, 2010
For all of those reviewers who complained that this craft book is "too racy" or "not for serious crafters", did you even bother to read the summaries provided on Amazon first? Take a glance at "I Like You", Amy Sedaris's previous book? GOOGLE Amy Sedaris, for God's sake?! The book is titled "Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People" and yet you were surprised and disgusted when you read it? What did you think you were getting into?

Amy Sedaris is a crafty lady, but she definitely likes to have fun with her topics and there really isn't any subject taboo to her. This is a fun, hilarious book that will definitely evoke nostalgia for those junky camp crafts and Girl Scout projects. It deftly parodies old craft books, while adding laugh-out-loud details that fans of the acidic humor of Amy (and Paul Dinello) have come to love. Forget the haters; pick this book up if you have even a trace of a sense of humor!
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VINE VOICEon November 22, 2010
SIMPLE TIMES: CRAFTS FOR POOR PEOPLE is a satire on the life and economic times of the "olden days." It's also a parody of today's big, beautiful crafting books, with a thousand (intentionally messy) illustrations showing hundreds of (intentionally lame*) homemade crafts for every personality and room of the house, and using every available material. (*I wonder what it says about me that I'm honestly interested in the thumbtack art and balloon art, the penny bookmark, rusty-nail wind chimes and tampon ghost!)

Fair warning: This book is by Amy Sedaris, in collaboration with other creatives like Amy Sedaris. It's a bit darker and cruder than I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence, her book about entertaining. If you don't know Amy, think Sarah Silverman -- both begin sentences in an innocent, extra-polite voice that lures you in and then veers without warning into a shocking incorrectness that alternately makes you laugh out loud and cringe at the wrong, wrong, wrongness. A chapter here on crafting safety is particularly gruesome ... and hilarious.

(Review based on a copy of the book provided by the publisher.)
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on November 3, 2010
Excellent book!! Contains lots of gift making ideas especially for those pesky relatives whom you really hate! LOL! It will guarantee that you'll never have to endure another horrific holiday get together in the future!
BTW: My dog used my copy for a chew toy and it came out the other end as a highly edifying tome about the politics of the 15th century! Multi useful!! I'd recommend it to anyone!
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on January 28, 2011
First let me start by saying that the only thing funnier than Amy Sedaris's love for asinine American kitsch is the hoards of people who don't "get it", but somehow buy or read her books expecting to learn something about the actual culture and practice of thrift and crafting. It's ironic because even though Amy is obviously passionate about it, she "gets it" - the stuff we grew up making in craft books are ugly and delightfully nostalgic. They are not things to ooh and awe over, they are crap glued to more crap. They are things to laugh about and enjoy in the way one would laugh about and enjoy photo's of their parent's from high school. It's about false sentimentality and the irony of Ladies Home Journal projects from the early 80's. I grew up on crafts. I loved pom poms, felt, glitter, pipe cleaners, etc. My mom made all of our stockings by hand with Elmer's Glue, glitter and rick rack. Rick. Rack. We didn't have silk Pottery Barn stockings. She had us make Reindeer and Turkey decorations out of tongue depressors and construction paper. And yes, we were poor and yes, we lived in the south. Anyone who was expecting conviction or taste involved in a book about gluing googly eyes to peanut shells is probably best off re-examining their life priorities.

Amy Sedaris is at her best peddling caricature sized considerations for the lighter side of lowbrow decor. The home spun weirdness that is her perspective is not lost on most, as I was completely stoked to see she featured painted Sweetgum balls, something we actually made in my house. The photographs are intentionally jocular, a sort of acrid eye candy. This book, although not as funny (I think) as I Like You is without a doubt fuller and more revealing into the psyche of someone who has the lady balls to put out a chapter entitled Crafting For Jesus and not actually mean it. Or does she? Her section on Rabbit care is a highlight.
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on November 8, 2010
I agree with a previous reviewer - get the hardcover edition AND the audio book. This is just hilarious. If you have to spend time in a car, pop in the CD and you'll be grateful for red lights and looking forward to traffic jams. You will also get to experience Paul Dinello which is unfortunately too rare
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