“The kind that stays with you, a clever line in a movie, a well-written anecdote in a book, a quip in a poem, and finally, finally I had a punch-line, a point, a meaning to the rambling.” – Thoughts on Textual Healing by Eric Smith

I tend to shy away from funny-romantic stories when it comes to books, mainly because the cookie-cutter formulas are getting rusty overtime: boy (or girl) with a crisis meets and falls in love with a girl (or boy) who becomes an inspiration for self-improvement, evil ex (or mother, or boss, or obsessed stalker) comes in and ruins everything, everybody’s in the dumps for a chapter or two, realization that love transcends everything else, epic chase scene involving killer traffic and a very supportive crowd, anti-climatic “this won’t work, we’re not meant to be” dialogue, award-winning monologue on love, and a happily-ever-after – it’s like the rinse-and-repeat instructions at the back of shampoo bottles.

Eric Smith’s Textual Healing, however, has a sugar glider, a ninja vs. pirate duel, a guy who’s a Dick, and a support group for writers who can’t write. And that’s just for starters.

Andrew Connor – who prefers to be called Ace, thank you very much – is a thirty-something writer living in New York, the author of the hugely successful Chasing Fireflies (“a simple story about a small town librarian who fell in love with a beautiful, rich woman from New York City”). It was so successful, it got adapted into a made-for-TV movie on HBO, starring Ed Norton and Penelope Cruz. With the money he made from royalties, he opens up a bookstore at Hoboken, right across the flower shop of a haiku-speaking ninja (“The sun shines brightly. I yearn for the autumn winds. The thrill of battle.” – if you don’t believe me, count the syllables yourself), and with an obsessive-compulsive employee who alphabetized everything in the store. Recently broken-hearted (his girlfriend left him for a suit named Richard), his best friend Shawn sets him up with backpacking, unpredictable Hannah, and his Fahrenheit 451-toting neighbor (and fellow writer) Stephanie lures him into joining Textual Healing, a writers’ circle for authors with issues. Oh, and did I mention his bestselling book is on clearance at 90% off?

All of this, and more, over the fact that Ace hasn’t written a thing since Chasing Fireflies – two years ago.

While Textual Healing isn’t the most meticulously edited book, it is a breath of fresh air amongst the done-to-death cliché romantic comedies out there. For one, Smith’s sense of humor is so timely (for a Hannah Montana reference, see page 230) but never approaches overkill; his paragraphs are packed with witticisms and subtle puns that build up and then drop bombs at the right moment. He’s crazy funny, I tell you. Ace is a smart romantic with a great sense of humor – his inner thoughts are so hilarious, that even at his most desolate times I find myself giggling like a schoolgirl (see “Please, take me back, Pop Tart.” on  page 8).

I’m dying here – there’s so much to tell about this book, but I don’t want to spoil it all for you. So instead, here are some teasers – some of the crazy-funny things I loved about the book:

  • someone refers to William Shakespeare as “Bill”
  • authorophiliac: one who is heavily attracted to, or is addicted to sexually interacting with, famous authors
  • what, exactly, is a sugar glider?
  • Andrea and her jacket photo
  • the comical love story of HowsYourFace and SexyLilJew4U
  • Brian’s dress-up birthday celebration – can you guess what a formal apology looks like?

A cross between Rob Fleming of Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity and Ted Mosby of How I Met Your Mother, you’ll simultaneously laugh at and fall in love with Ace Connor and his bunch of misfit friends. An intelligent, laugh-out-loud treat – Textual Healing is the paperback counterpart of your feel-good romantic comedy of the year. Now go make your husband/boyfriend/man of your dreams read this.

PS. “People don’t meet after stealing glances at each other from across a crowded ballroom dance floor. They don’t fall in love over the Internet, ironically having their partner be their best friend. And no one gets off a bus at the end of a story with the one they love… they always leave.” Ugh – marry me.

PPS. “I’ll show you how to light up a cloud.” 🙂

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