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House of Cards: Love, Faith, and Other Social Expressions Hardcover – Bargain Price, October 1, 2009
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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.)
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"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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Top customer reviews
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Reading House of Cards: Love, Faith, and Other Social Expressions was a bit like that for me. Some parts made me reach out eager to pick them up and be entertained. Yes, great intro, then flip it open and ... oh my goodness, more of the same.
Author David Ellis Dickerson is a very funny guy, and his wordplay is to die for. I thoroughly enjoyed his verses and cryptic crossword work. Dickerson landed what seemed like the perfect job for his talents: writing for Hallmark Cards. I would have appreciated a clearer look at the systems and processes of Hallmark--and possibly more about his avocation as a puzzle-maker. Dickerson, though, is like the nerdy kid who throws himself in front of the camera every time, making monster faces. Granted, House of Cards is a memoir so by definition it's ABOUT him, but ... maybe he's a bit too invested in being annoying, to the detriment of this book.
Dickerson was raised as a fundamentalist Christian and converted to Catholicism as an adult. At twenty-seven he was a virgin, he and his fiancee having decided to "just say no" until they married. He plays the humor card repeatedly in telling this part of the story, and frankly, it was just TMI for me. It contributes heavily, as you might imagine, to his sense of stress and dislocation in the Hallmark job. The focus on his sex life, and what seemed like ridicule of himself and the systems and staff of Hallmark, got in the way of my full enjoyment.
Dickerson, an NPR contributor, is brilliant and funny and there's lots to enjoy here. I'm hoping that his next book is just as brilliant and funny but with less self-deprecation. For me, three stars with the promise of a sunnier day next time.
Linda Bulger, 2009
But I'm disappointed that David went out of his way to malign some really good managers, writers, and editors, all the while trying to convince the reader that they were just too uncool to recognize his sheer genius. I didn't dislike David, but he was not brilliant (or at least he didn't exhibit brilliance, if he was), and he alienated a lot of people for some really sound reasons.
I found David's admission on page 12 really telling: "I've always despaired of ever impressing anyone with my resume, and my writing so far had gotten almost no attention. But I know that in person I'm charming. It's what I've counted on my whole life to get me out of trouble for being late, or for forgetting assignments, or for all the other difficulties that my absentminded brain gets me into. People are generally receptive to my jokes and my friendly nature, as long as they aren't humorless office manager types."
This explains a lot, because David missed a fair number of meetings, writing deadlines, and other important obligations. "Charm" (and I'm being generous to use his word, although I wouldn't call him charming - just friendly) doesn't make up for that. Sometimes his jokes were really funny, and sometimes they bombed. David's book also misrepresents the creative work process at Hallmark to the point where I would characterize it as a fictional account. Maybe his lack of understanding contributed to why he struggled so much in his job? But for all you readers who think, "Oh, THIS is what it's like on the inside..." - sadly - no, this book does not deliver a glimpse of how it really works.
The bottom line is that David, who was around 30 years old at the time he agreed to work at a corporation, expected to shine without working hard or behaving like a responsible adult. The real world doesn't work that way. And it also doesn't revolve around him, although it appears that he has yet to figure out that particular truth.
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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