Humorist Dave Barry tells the story of being backstage at a local TV morning show, watching a self-help author say in a confident and soothing manner how viewers needed to change their lives to become happier people. Shortly after, in the green room, this same calm, authoritative author, perhaps a mentor to many, “flew into a nasty, screaming, eyes-bulging, water-bottle-throwing rage at his publicist… because one of his local radio interviews had been canceled.”
Enough publicists have told Barry that self-help authors (not all) are such “hypocritical assholes” that they have become a running joke in publishing circles.
All this is to say that Barry is skeptical about self-help books. “And here I’ve gone and written one,” he laments.
Well yes and no. One could call Lessons From Lucy: The Simple Joys of an Old, Happy Dog (Simon & Schuster) a book of humor thinly veiled as self help, sprinkled with a series of life lessons exemplified to perfection by the family dog Lucy. The lessons, as Barry quickly admits, are pretty obvious. And anyone who has ever had a dog certainly would attest to the beauty, love and lessons they exude. He describes his dog as the best dog ever – and he could be quoting 99 percent of all dog owners.
Lessons From Lucy might be better defined as a “self self-help” book for Barry himself. And he makes that clear: “I do not consider myself a wise person or an authority on anything except maybe the lyrics to Beach Boys car songs from 1963. I certainly don’t consider myself qualified to tell you how to live your life.”
“I’m trying to actually help myself with this self-help book.”
As the author approaches the age of 70, he examines, through his award-winning humorist commentary, how he has lived his own life: reluctant to make new friends, viewing the world through a lens of sarcasm and negativity, and struggling for inner peace and contentment–all matters for which Lucy can set him straight.
He talks about reaching an age where he stops having fun, risking embarrassment for silly moments of pleasure, and losing his sense of wonder.
Anger is a big part of it – which he addresses in a comic manner and also frames as a potential life lesson in shedding it.
Take for example the breakfast speaker who begins his address by saying “good morning,” to which the audience replies with a “good morning” of their own, to which the speaker frowns and insists that they can do better and have to say it again with more verve. That’s what gets him angry!
Through his dog Lucy, Barry seeks to connect with all the good in the world. Dogs in general, he notes, see no past and no future. They forget a passing experience in a moment; they don’t worry about bills and growing old. “Lucy makes the best of things.”
Lucy teaches Barry how to live in the present, how to let go of daily grievances, and how to feel good in your own skin. The lessons are drawn from Barry’s routine humiliations and stream-of-consciousness accounts of the absurdities of daily life.
“This book,” says Barry, “represents my attempt to understand how Lucy manages to be so happy, and to figure out whether I can use any of her methods to make my own life happier.”
There are seven lessons from Lucy in the book, framed through Barry’s own life experience and his humor. Giving them away would not be a crime, but, well, read them for yourself.
The book’s publisher attached a note with the review copy explaining that Lessons From Lucy was on track for an October release but was pushed back to April as the author dealt with a family crisis. File this in your memory bank under future life lessons.
While most of Lessons From Lucy is laugh-out-loud hilarious, it also is a witty and wise guide to joyous living.
Lessons from Lucy will be available on April 2, 2019.
About Dave Barry
Dave Barry is the author of many bestsellers including Dave Barry’s Complete Guide to Guys, Dave Barry Turns 40 and Dave Barry Is Not Making This Up. A wildly popular syndicated columnist, Barry won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for commentary. He lives in Miami.