Entertainment » Books

Simple Times, Crafts for Poor People

by Winnie McCroy
EDGE Editor
Monday Nov 1, 2010
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The freakishly talented Amy Sedaris has teamed up with her former Strangers With Candy co-star Paul Dinello to present Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People, on shelves November 2. The eagerly awaited follow-up to her bestselling entertaining book, I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence, Simple Times transports us back to a golden time when people turned household junk into slightly more decorative but equally useless junk.

"It’s often been said that ugly people craft and attractive people have sex," writes Sedaris. "This book is not going to dispel that ridiculous fact. Rather, it will accept the well-documented, scientifically sound research done on the subject and move on, because regardless of how you look, this book is not here to judge, it is about the joy of crafting."


Amy Sedaris  

Crafting is fatal

The tome begins with a breakdown of crafting stats, which indicate that "more than 8 out of 10 households have at least 4 out of 5 family members engaging in 2 out of 3 crafts 78% of the time. A staggering 98% of this group are homosexual men."

Good news for you, my gay brothers. The bad news? Crafting is fatal. Be it sawdust fires, feather asphyxia, or vaginal bleeding, crafting will kill you, warns Sedaris. If not crafting, then poisonous snakes.

Luckily, survival tips abound, thanks to Sedaris and Dinello’s alter-egos, Jean and Gene Woodchuck, a longtime married couple who "can pretty much guarantee that in between the words that can’t be reprinted here, you’re gonna hear a useful tip or two."

The Woodchuck’s useful tips include making a self-esteem shell collage, creating a crab claw roach clip, and Gene’s intricate assemblage of a workbench hardware pot pipe by joining a Cosgrove flout valve into a two-inch section of Coaler boiler tubing and... well, you’ll have to buy the book to find out.

Ever mindful of the current economic crisis, Sedaris is sure to include a section on "The Joy of Poverty," which lovingly details directions for creating a mouse ghetto, a rusty nail wind chime, and crafts made from pennies-as if pennies grow on trees!

The book also provides a section of suitable crafts for the handicapped crafter, from those with autism and ADD to those with anger issues, bipolar disorder, and the most crippling handicap of all, old age.

Thoughtfully, Sedaris also provides a chapter on the other handicap, CUI: Crafting Under the Influence. Are you a pothead? Make a Chianti bottle candleholder. Ramped up on amphetamines? It’s decoupage collage time!

The book takes care to provide instructions on how to set up a craft area and crafting circle, provides crafting safety tips, and illustrates how to properly stretch before crafting, via Sedaris in a two-toned pink and burgundy leotard. Look alive, my ladies, ’cause that tard is tighter than a clam with lockjaw!

Whether crafting for the dead (look at the lovely Mexican sugar skulls!), crafting in outer space, or crafting for Jesus (Though shall not craft graven images of thy neighbor’s wife), Sedaris and Dinello show that even the lamest things can be rendered cool, if you’re desperate enough and have a lot of bric-a-brac and time on your hands.


Paul Dinello and Amy Sedaris  

Fornicrafting

There are special sections dedicated to rabbit care in a New York City walk-up, fireside storytelling (grilled hot dogs on a rake, anyone?), teenage angst, and making love-or as Sedaris and Dinello like to call it, fornicrafting. Although my gay brethren are already well versed on the art of manscaping, the straights should get much use out of the "Beautifying the Pleasure Patch" chart, which outlines popular styles, from the Sergeant York to the ever-popular Sizzle Strip.

And although it is no cookbook, Simple Times does include some lovely recipes for mint juleps, stuffed mushrooms, coconut macaroons, and homemade sausage almost tasty enough to dispel the old adage that everybody loves to eat sausage, but nobody wants to see how it’s made.

Simple Times presents a wealth of crafts involving covering empty cans with fabric, and gluing googly eyes on nuts, clothespins, Popsicle sticks, and painted rocks. There are a lot of googly eyes going on here.

Although the production values of the book are just as impressive as that of her initial offering, where I Like You provided actual (if twisted) tips for entertaining, Simple Times seems to be more geared to getting laughs than making crafts. Many of the projects in the book do not come with how-to instructions, and although any monkey could probably figure them out based on the extremely high-quality color photos provided, I couldn’t.

No matter. Rest assured in knowing that our knack for knick-knacks is what separates us homosexuals from the regular folks. Even if you’d sooner buy a Jonathan Adler bargello needlepoint throw pillow than attempt to create your own muslin sequined pillow out of leftover trimmings, you will love how Simple Times gathers the cream of the crop of popsicle stick trivet crafts (and the most complicated recipe for pot cookies you will ever see), all geared for your perusing enjoyment.

Special props go to Jason Frank Rothenberg for his outstanding photography (especially the sizzling interior book-jacked centerfold of Sedaris), to Megan Whitmarsh for her copious embroidery art throughout the book, and to Adam Selman for his creative costumes.

So whether you are infused with an overwhelming urge to cover tin cans in felt and sequins, or just want a thick, solid coffee table book suitable for keeping water rings off Nana’s antique sideboard, Simple Times is just the thing. Buy it for yourself (you selfish thing!) or let it be the perfect holiday gift for that special someone worthy enough to part with three of your hard-earned sawbucks.


by Amy Sedaris, Grand Central Publishing

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women’s news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she writes about local restaurants in her food blog, http://brooklyniscookin.blogspot.com/

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