Book Review / Cool, Calm & Contentious
Merrill Markoe

In the 80s, Merrill Markoe wrote for Late Night with David Letterman (you can thank her for “Stupid Pet Tricks” and “Viewer Mail”) and she uses that dry as a bone humor to discuss relationships, family, writing, camping and dogs in Cool, Calm and Contentious. This wit clearly allows her to cope with life’s difficulties and turns what would normally be a sad tale of emotional ruin into a hilarious and poignant breeze. In “Medusa’s Sister,” Markoe quite nonchalantly mentions being raped in college and admits that her first thought during the attack was that she hoped her rapist wouldn’t steal her power tools. Her overbearing mother is, on the surface, a mean-spirited monster in “The Place, the Food, Everything Awful,” but it’s slowly revealed that she’s really just woman with an outsize intellect in a life-long search for a captive audience. Markoe’s long personal and professional relationship with Letterman is condensed into the short “Bobby,” written entirely in second person. Lessons gleaned from other complicated relationships are turned into a handy step by step guide in “How to Spot an Asshole” and a crash course in engaging with narcissists in “But Enough About Me: Narcissism for Echoes.” Professional and personal disappointments and traumas are not the end of the world for her, it seems, but learning experiences. By not taking herself too seriously, nothing in Markoe’s life can’t be turned into a charming anecdote; as you read Cool in one sitting (trust me), you’ll be glad that’s the case.

Labell, Molly. "Cool, Calm & Contentious." BUST Magazine Dec. 2012: 75. Print