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Cool, Calm & Contentious: Essays Hardcover – November 1, 2011

3.6 out of 5 stars 61 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Advance praise for Cool, Calm & Contentious
 
“Now that I’ve read Merrill Markoe’s latest book, I’ve learned a lot—about virginity, fetishism, sociopaths and narcissists, and how she explained the BP oil spill to her dogs. Also that Merrill is funnier, smarter, and more honest than anyone any of us knows. Just accept it—I have.”—Winnie Holzman, creator of My So-called Life, co-author of Wicked

“Alarming and reassuring . . . Wait, that’s impossible.”—George Meyer, writer, The Simpsons

PRAISE FOR MERRILL MARKOE
 
Nose Down, Eyes Up
 
“Read this novel for its nose-to-the-ground wisdom, for its unsentimental take on family, and for the funniest, furriest pack of jokesters this side of the Marx Brothers.”—O: The Oprah Magazine
 
“Whimsical . . . an ideal place to bury your nose.”—Los Angeles Times
 
“Hilarious.”—Publishers Weekly
 
Walking in Circles Before Lying Down
 
“Bound to make you laugh out loud.”—People (four stars)
 
“Fun and charming . . . So spin around three or four times, curl up with your four-legged friend and enjoy.”—Fort Worth Star-Telegram
 
“A delight.”—Boston Sunday Globe

About the Author

Emmy Award–winning writer Merrill Markoe lives in Los Angeles, California, the garden spot of America, with four dogs and a man. She has authored three books of humorous essays and the novels Nose Down, Eyes Up; Walking in Circles Before Lying Down; and It’s My F---ing Birthday and co-authored (with Andy Prieboy) the novel The Psycho Ex Game. A lot of additional information about her—including a long bio, goofy videos, etc.—can be found at merrillmarkoe.com. After great amounts of hesitation, she is also on Facebook. But since she thinks about pulling the page down on a daily basis, check fast.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Villard; First Edition edition (November 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345518918
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345518910
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #544,765 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book was worth the wait. The writing is so good. It's more of a conversation than a book.

The approach Merrill takes to difficult subjects is extremely clever. Whether she is talking about her mom or her adventures in relationships, she handles it with wit and grace.

When I was done reading the book, I wanted to be able to give her a big hug of thanks. But since I couldn't do that, I wrote this instead.

This is a must buy.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've always been a huge fan of Merrill Markoe's novels. I bought this book of essays as soon as it came out. Not only is it hilarious (trying to model herself on Jack Kerouac as a desperate-to-be-liked teenager is full of laughs) but incredibly brave and revealing. Markoe writes with honesty, wit and wisdom on a wide range of topics: her impossible-to-please mother, a perfect explanation of the narcissistic personality, or a river rafting trip for women to bond over. Oh, and dogs! Lots and lots of dogs. This book is a treasure.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This was a fun read, especially the parts about Merrill's peculiar yet fascinating mother. She came across as a character we've seen Claude Rains play (and that's why we love Claude Rains). Her 'first time', arty teen, rafting, and 'how to spot an a-word' essays were also fun. I got bogged down with all the dog stuff, but a dog owner may slurp that stuff up like spilled gravy.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've heard it said that comedians would be cease being funny if they gained too much insight into their neuroses but Merrill Markoe proves that the opposite is true. Delving into the abyss can lead to some pretty humorous findings.

Markoe gets personal in Cool, Calm & Contentious, writing about herself, yet doing so makes the book that much more relatable. She shares the impact of being parented by a mother who's less than maternal, shall we say, and how that affected her self-esteem and choices in men. The flip side is that her uobringing also helped form and shape her considerable comedic skills, which have improved with age, while being ruled by self-doubt becomes more a thing of the past. Markoe's lighthearted, breezy style might make it seem like she came by self-knowledge easily, but there's no doubt it was hard won. I imagine some years of therapy (and more years of angst) as she suggests preceded that understanding. But this isn't math and Markoe need not show her work.

I like the description of the Fetish Ball as we've all been in situations where we feel out of place. I think we all do have felt the same sadness in hearing about people who attach harm or humiliation to intimacy and The story is funny because it's so unique and yet so human. The chapter on How to Spot an A****** should be required reading as young people go forth and "date." These seemingly small clues actually point out huge warning signs- and in a funny way. I encourage all my single-and-dating clients to read it.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The author is a decent writer, but this is a tale of self-pity and woe. Being too young to know who she actually was, naturally I googled her to figure out who her mystery famous boyfriend was. I doubt I'd have picked this up on my own but it was a selection for my book club and while it did give us something to chat about, no one felt the urge to pass their copy along to anyone else with a strong recommendation
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My two favorite chapters of this latest Markoe essay collection are the ones about how to get into comedy and how to avoid making the romantic mistakes she's made. And who better at that than an Emmy winning former Letterman writer, girlfriend and creator of Stupid Pet Tricks?

Over the course of her career, MM has discovered that "an awful lot of people who make a living in comedy owe their livelihoods to a similar kind of mom." Therefore, she suggests you should "try to be raised by a woman who has at least five or six of the following traits: bright, clever, crafty, fearless, complex, artistic, resourceful and inventive, while at the same time: oblivious, controlling, manipulative, neurotic, tasteless, intractable, solipsistic, thwarted, repressed, inconsistent, critical, self-destructive, depressed, angst-ridden, furious, suicidal, violent, narcissistic, fearful, self-loathing, selfish and sadistic...." The good standard issue Crazy Mommy," says Markoe, "offers career nutrition by teaching her children that if they wish to retain their sanity, they had better start to see the awful things that happen to them as funny."

Also as useful as it is wise and funny is Markoe's personal 11-point collection of behavioral clues that will let you spot key characteristics of a boyfriend type who cannot be named here (7 letters, starts with an "a", ends with "e" and defined by my dictionary as "an irritating or contemptible person.") A prime example of whom is dissected elsewhere in the book under the pseudonym "Bobby."

Among other topics she tackles here: Love in the eighties... Lots of stuff about dogs, including the Markoe dog-care plan vs. that of the Dog Whisperer... Going to art school at Berkeley...
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By Anna on December 9, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Thank you Merrill for writing a book as a true comedian who knows what it means to be a comedian that isn't afraid to be self-reflective and serious at times. This book is poignant, heart breaking and entertaining at the same time. But not in the weird "checked out entertaining" way. I highlighted phrases in this book more times than I can count. Thanks for keeping it real [even alarming] and not being afraid to be you but being downright honest and hilarious at the same time.
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