Thursday, January 10, 2008

Book Review: My Horizontal Life: A Collection of One-Night Stands, by Chelsea Handler

Chelsea Handler certainly can’t be accused of being shy or subtle. Her brand of humor is often snarky, sarcastic, and a little (ok, a lot) vicious. Her current show on the E! Network, besides being one of the few shows on that channel worth watching, is often a vehicle for her sometimes crude, sometimes mean, and often funny comedic approach.

This sense of humor also makes My Horizontal Life: A Collection of One-Night Stands an engaging, funny read. Published in 2005, before Handler become a quasi-household name, the book is raw and honest; the Victorians and Puritans among us would be best served to avoid reading it. Some of the language would make a drunken sailor blush. The first chapter, which recounts how Handler as a young girl discovered her parents doing the Big Nasty, might also scare some people off right away, even though it is laugh-out-loud funny. Each remaining chapter chronicles one of Handler’s one-night stand experiences, including hookups with a cruise ship performer who bears a small resemblance to Party of Five actor Scott Wolf, a midget, and a stone-dumb male stripper.

Although there are plenty of one-night stands described in this book, along with its kissing cousins of vodka and Ecstasy, the book’s funniest moments come from Handler’s descriptions of her family life, especially her car “dealer” father and Mormon sister, her various friends and roommates, including the clueless and naïve “Dumb Dumb,” and her misadventures. In a truly hilarious story, she finds herself breaking into her own apartment the morning after a non-hookup, still wearing her M&M’s costume from the previous night’s party. Handler also uses plenty of self-deprecating humor; she stumbles through some of her experiences and is clearly learning as she goes.

Women might find this book more humorous than men. Written from the point of view of a brutally honest female, it does reveal something of the mentality of what at least one woman searching for a one-night stand looks for in a guy. For the guys out there, it’s a little disheartening: one potential hookup is scuttled because he’s too well endowed, where on another occasion, Handler makes a quick exit because her potential suitor has a “shrinky dink.” I’m sure you can figure it out.

This begs the question as to whether a dude can read this book without feeling like a total, grade A pervert. To determine that, there are simple guidelines to follow:

• If you’re a married or otherwise non-single male and your special lady friend asks you to read it, you’re covered. Pervert Rating 0.
• If you’re a married or otherwise non-single male and you’re sneaking peeks at this book out of curiosity, you’re partially covered. It’s not quite as bad as swiping your woman’s Cosmo for bathroom reading material, but it’s close. Pervert Rating 5.
• If you’re a single male and you claim to be reading the book to understand women, you’re full of it. Pervert Rating 10.

My Horizontal Life ends with the author realizing that a life of one-night stands is exausting; it’s the closest the book comes to having a theme or message. This isn’t a bad thing; Handler never takes herself or her subject matter too seriously. Instead, the book delivers enough witty one-liners, observations about dating and life, interesting characters, and funny bedroom (or cruise ship) stories to make it a humorous book worth reading. Unless you’re a single male.

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