Sunday, January 8th, 2012
One of my favorite humorists of all time, Erma Bombeck ruled the newspaper pages, inspiring and amusing readers with her entertaining observations about the nature of motherhood. “Forever, Erma” was a labor of love: a posthumous collection featuring the most loved Bombeck columns, as well as a smattering of lesser known pieces and a chapter of tributes from colleagues, friends and family. For those unfamiliar with Bombeck’s work, it’s a good introduction. For those, like myself, who have loved her work for years, the book is both a delight and a revelation.
Bombeck’s columns elevate the trivial moments of motherhood: mining them for both humor and for meaning. While, on the surface, she may simply be sharing a story about a difficult child, she is also making a then-revolutionary statement: “I’m not a perfect mother or wife, and that’s OK.” She wrote such columns years before comedian Roseanne Barr introduced the idea of a sublimely flawed family; and her columns predated by decades the first by humorist Dave Barry, who explores similar territory from a father’s point of view. Indeed, Bombeck was one of the first to discount such unrealistic role models as TV’s Donna Reed and to air her dirty laundry (both figurative and literal) in print.
Such insights won her legions of fans — mothers and children, wives and husbands — and this book does a good job of illustrating why.