Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Milk Eggs Vodka - Bill Keaggy

   2007; 227 pages.  New Author? : Yes.  Full Title : Milk Eggs Vodka – Grocery Lists Lost and Found.  Genre : Non-Fiction; Lists; Humor.  Overall Rating : 8*/10.

    “You are what you eat.”

    Well if that axiom’s true, then perhaps “You are whatever’s on your grocery list” is even more valid, since it would include what you eat, what you drink, and all the grocery store-purchased stuff you make everyday use of. 

    Of course, once the grocery shopping’s done, most people just toss away those self-revealing lists – often as they leave the store, either into the trash receptacle, or onto the floor.  Because who in their right mind would want someone else’s shopping list?

    Well, Bill Keaggy, for one.  Assisted by a bunch friends who visit his website at www.grocerylists.org, he’s amassed a collection of tossed lists numbering in the thousands.  And he’s put 400 or so of the best, strangest, and most interesting ones in his book Milk Eggs Vodka.

What’s To Like...
    Milk Eggs Vodka is a fun, fast, and easy read, since most of the pages consist of two images of grocery lists, a witty-but-not-snarky, tongue-in-cheek comment by  the author for each of them, and a piece of food trivia along the border of the page.  Personally, these trivia ditties were my favorite parts of the book.  A couple examples :

    It took almost fifty years after canned foods debuted for someone to invent the can opener. (pg. 35).  Butter has been dyed yellow for at least 700 years.  People used to use marigolds.  (pg. 98).  In 1956, 80% of all U.S. households had a refrigerator, but only 8% of British households had one.  (pg. 177).  And we’ll let you look up the eye-popping food fact on page 217 about insect parts, fly eggs, and maggots for yourself.

     For easy reference, there’s a Table of Contents at the front and an index at the back.  The ToC will catch your eye with chapter titles like Chides And Asides, Badd Spellrs, and Organized Lists, the latter for OCD folks like me. 

    The (2007) price listed on the back of the full-sized hardcover version of MEV was $19.99.  The present Amazon prices start at  $24.98 (used) and $26.36 (new).  There is also an e-book version, but several Amazon reviewers have noted that the view sucks on the Kindle.  As with any Humor-Gimmicky book, clever though it may be, the reread value may well be minimal.  So if $20+ seems a bit steep for a once-and-done book, you might check to see if your local library carries it.

    The Grocery List: Prozac, Kid Hair De-Tangler, Ibuprofen, Fibre-All, Sensodyne.  Keaggy’s Comment : “Wow.  Your life sucks, my friend.  Constipation, headaches, aching gums, kid with knotted hair.  No wonder you’re depressed.”.  (pg. 45)

    Grocery shopping must be pure joy for the obsessive-compulsive.  Aisle after aisle of precisely arranged products grouped into categories and neatly stacked on clean shelves.  Some uber-organized shoppers sort their lists by aisle.  Others use a pre-formatted master list so they can just check off the things they need without having to write much down.  Strangely, efficiency and laziness actually go quite well together, like pickles and peanut butter.  (pg. 136)

Making lists is a uniquely human activity, like watching pornography or Googling yourself.  (pg. 2 )
    There’s not a lot of text in Milk Eggs Vodka (I don’t count the pictures of grocery lists), but what is there is both well-written and clever.  Bill Keaggy does an excellent job of infusing wit into what admittedly is a drab topic.  My only concern when reading this book was the validity of the subject material itself, because, really now, how many times do you recall seeing (and recognizing) a used grocery list on the ground?

    I don’t doubt Keaggy himself, but I have to question whether those contributors who sent in photos to his website really spent their time combing the floors and trash bins of their local supermarkets, examining each and every scrap of paper therein/thereon.

    A lot of the lists looked suspiciously short.  My grocery lists are never less than 10 items, and often twice that amount.  Only one or two had identifying information on them (telephone numbers or home addresses); you’d think more would be this way.  I recognize some people have atrocious spelling skills, but a couple lists looked like the composer set out to misspell as many words as he could.

    Oh well, neither Keaggy nor I have any way to verify that the submitters of these lists were not their authors as well.  I guess it’s best to just accept the entries at face value, enjoy this book for its entertainment value, and not worry about its authenticity.  After all, we do that with any picture on the internet, whether it’s photoshopped or not.

    8 StarsMilk Eggs Vodka reminds me of a book with a similar template, and which consisted of photos of old and abandoned shopping carts in all sorts of bizarre places – rivers, woods, etc.  If I can remember that book’s title, I may have to see if my library has a copy of it as well.

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