Thursday, May 31, 2012

Jim Mullen's It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life

Mormonhermitmom recommended that I read a book last month while I stopped by her place to visit her.  Before I left her house to return to my hometown, she placed Jim Mullen’s It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life in my hands.  She told me it would be a quick and funny read.  I remembered reading her review of the book a few months ago; she mentioned beating woodchucks with golf clubs.  It was a quick and funny read.  This book is published by Simon & Schuster of New York in 2001.  Mormonhermitmom’s review can be found by clicking here.

Having finished reading this story, I can only say that It Takes a Village Idiot is a readerly text.  It has a simple, formulaic plot that does not tax the critical thinking muscles of the mind.  It is quaint.  There are a few chuckles here and there, but it is not a laugh a minute.  The humor at the beginning is quite rude, but it lightens up as the story progresses.  The narrator evolves from a city dweller to a country bumpkin, but in an enlightened sort of way.

The book does mention a bomb scare, but the fear manifesting in the dialogue recalls the aftermath of the truck bomb that exploded in the parking lot structure of the World Trade Center in 1993 or of the one in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.  Here, the narrator reflects on a serious disadvantage of living in a highly populated urban area.  When there is a bomb scare, a whole city block shuts down.  In the countryside, when disaster strikes, farmers pick themselves up and move on, because somebody has got to spread the manure over the fields.

The part of the book that sticks out most in my mind is the narrator’s fascination with the well driller’s dowsing rods.  When he asks the driller—who surprisingly also has a pet grooming business—if he really thinks this method works, he answers, “Some say you need the fork of an apple tree that grows on the property, others say you need a water witch, but I say that’s a bunch of superstitious hooey.  Coat hangers work just as well as wood.  Besides, you got to drill somewhere.  Its guess is as good as yours or mine” (118).  Whatever you say, bloke.

At the end of the book, under “Author’s Note,” Mullen makes an odd observation.  He states that when he and his wife started living near the Catskill Mountains, there were “six hundred working dairy farms” that have now dropped to “two hundred” (217).  I am not sure whether to take this as bad news or as good news.  Are dairy farmers moving to New York City for work?  Did they unionize?  Did a catastrophe strike?  Was there a rebellion among the heifers?  Who knows?  Maybe the dairy farmers acquired a flatlander taste for lemongrass and tomatillos.  You better stock up on herbs before the dairy cows stampede through Manhattan.  In other words, the author should have elaborated on why a decrease in the number of dairy farms in upstate New York is significant, because if he obtained some sort of nostalgia for the past, he did not express that clearly in his book.  There’s no use crying over . . . oh, never mind.

The story reads like a journal of personal experiences, but Mullen fictionalizes places and people to protect their identities.  It is a shame, really, because now I am left wondering which parts happened and which did not.  I would have preferred to have known that before reading the book.



  1. No, it wasn't a laugh a minute. The parts that were funny had me wheezing through the parts that were mundane. Having had an experience with a mouse in the basement window well the other day, I have a new appreciation for the 6-iron. Although I didn't have a 6 iron, I had a rake. I didn't impale it, I just squished it.

  2. EEEEEWWWWWWW get a mouse trap!


Have you read this book? What did you think of it?


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