Picks and Pans Review: Uh-Oh

updated 09/23/1991 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/23/1991 01:00AM

by Robert Fulghum

The subtitle of this book is "Some Observations from Both Sides of the Refrigerator Door," which is appropriate, since it could have been written by a cabbage, either before or after conversion to coleslaw.

Like the author's All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten and It Was on Fire When I Lay Down on It, it is a trickle-of-consciousness succession of idle anecdotes, platitudes, mixed metaphors, non sequiturs and miscellaneous cutesy-wutesy stuff. Mostly the book reflects Fulghum's inability to differentiate between simplicity and meaninglessness.

He writes that "Christmas is not a date on a calendar but a state of mind."

He goes over the ingredients for meat loaf, saying the filler can vary—"even dirt would work, I guess."

He discusses 16th-century French essayist Michel Eyquem de Montaigne, referring to him as, of course, "Mike."

He suggests that setting cats on fire is funny.

Once in a while, he gets a nice little tale going—the story of a VFW post's band crashing a funeral from which a bitter widow had banned it, say—but it never amounts to anything. And Fulghum, while pretending to be engaged in an intimate conversation with his readers, never reveals anything of substance about himself. When he mentions his wife being angry with him, for instance, you wonder if maybe he put too much topsoil in the meat loaf or torched Puff as a gag, yet he never reveals the source of her anger.

The title comes from what Fulghum calls "an equation that summarizes my view of the conditions of existence: 'uh-huh' + 'oh-wow' + 'uh-oh' + 'oh, God'='ah-hah!' " While this equation doesn't seem to mean very much, if you say it fast and have someone play a ukulele in the background, you can hula to it. (Villard, $21)

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