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Cool, Calm & Contentious: Essays

3.22 of 5 stars 3.22  ·  rating details  ·  971 ratings  ·  186 reviews
“This is so well written. [When a book like this] comes along, it’s, like, ‘Thank you!’ What a great way to spend an afternoon, an evening, reading these essays. . . . Absolutely great.”—Jon Stewart

“[Merrill] Markoe is easily as funny as David Sedaris. She’s capable of manic riffs and acerbic skewering. Still, her good nature shines through.”—The Washington Post

In this h
Paperback, 304 pages
Published August 7th 2012 by Villard (first published January 1st 2011)
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Mary Bloodworth
Some years ago I read Merrill Markoe's book "What the Dogs Have Taught Me." I remember it as being side-splittingly funny, so I was happy to see that she had a new one out. (turns out she's written a number of them, I guess Merrill and I haven't kept up.)

Merrill Markoe is a bitter woman. Let's just get this out there now. Each chapter is a story of its own, and I don't know if all of them were written for the book or for other things and compiled into the book. Whatever it is, it's a bit front-
A palate-cleanser in between other things. Markoe is always sharp and funny, and I love how she writes about animals vs. humans. (Hint: she often likes animals better, and thinks they're smarter and funnier. I agree.) There's some sadness and anger under the humor, whether she's writing about men in her life, her narcissist mother, or the state of the world as run by smug, jowly white dudes. I get that. I also get her mixed responses to an all-lady whitewater rafting trip, with an emphasis on "f ...more
The best analysis of what happens to people who grow up with crazy mothers I have ever read. It turns out the desire to rearrange grim facts into jokes develops in direct proportion to the humorlessness of the environment in which one is raised!

"You'll get unconditional love when you do something to deserve it"
Having never heard of humorist/novelist Merrill Markoe before her recent Daily Show interview with host Jon Stewart, I was drawn to Markoe's story of her tumultuous relationship with her mother, in which she uses humor to successfully cope. Markoe's stories are honest accounts of milestones and mundane events in her life. Most of her material centers on a lifetime commitment to her self centered (albeit remarkable) mother and happier stories of the unconditional love that her canine pals have gi ...more
I dig Merrill Markoe. She's funny and and smart and a powerful female writer role model and she loves dogs. What more do I need? I wish we were friends. I would like to hang out with her.

The book was fun and funny and a pretty light and easy read. I quite a bit appreciated her opinions that in order to grow up funny you should have a crazy mommy, as well as her very astute insights into narcissists. I will say the section on her life in college/art school was a little weird because it's rolling
I will say that this book made me feel worlds better about my own mother! But most of the book was too disjointed and the stories more sad than funny.
Here's what happens with my book selections. I find a book I think I will like on Goodreads. If it's not available at the library I put myself on the hold list. At some point in the future I get a notice from the library saying that my book is available. By the time I get to the library, I don't even know what the book is going to be. It's feels like my birthday and I've surprised myself with a book gift! With this book, I completely forgot what kind of book it was but I knew that my old self di ...more
This book is a solid three and a half stars, an intelligently written book of essays I enjoyed. Having grown up with a critical parent, I can relate to the opening chapters about her mother. Having grown up with someone who had what I thought (for years!) to be 'abundant confidence', I enjoyed the chapter focusing on Narcissists. I had to laugh though, when it took me until three quarters through the 'Bobby'chapter to realize she was talking about her relationship with David Letterman (and the i ...more
Forgive me, Ms. Markoe, but the entire time I read your book, I kept thinking of another book of essays written by a very funny person: Bossypants by Tina Fey. You see, you and Ms. Fey demonstrate how very funny – and diverse – female comediennes are (your greatest similarity might not be your gender but the fact that, when your essays are not funny, you both miss the mark in a big way). You and Ms. Fey don’t have much in common in your comedic styles, except that you both tap into humor in uniq ...more
I won an advanced reader copy through Goodreads.

I have to admit that I am not a big nonfiction reader. I want a story. But the synopsis of Merrill Markoe’s Cool, Calm & Contentious it was described as “hilarious”. I could use some “hilarious” so I entered. If you like you humor dark, this book is for you.

I did find the essays well written. If I were giving out stars alone on that basis I would probably do a 4.5 (round up that’s a 5) but the stars definition is on how much I liked the book. I
Rebecca Burke
This book of essays has an addictive quality to it; I couldn't put it down until it was finished. Though I've never dated David Letterman (here, "Bobby"), attended any fetish conventions, or had any interfaces whatsoever with the Hollywood entertainment industry, I have become a writer and fan of black humor and dogs in response to my childhood and understanding of men and politics. So yes, I'm channeling Merrill Markoe.

This being MM, I knew there would be plenty of wacky female misadventures, f
I, too, bought this based on her amusing interview with Jon Stewart, which made it sound like the entire book was about her relationship with her hilariously angry and unhappy mother, and how Merrill discovered her mom's extensive journals after the funeral. And indeed, the first couple of chapters were funny and poignant. And then: an entire chapter about her effing dogs. She's already written at LEAST two entire books about her effing dogs! Enough with the dogs already, Merrill! I skipped that ...more
I wish I didn't relate to just about every word Merrill Markoe writes.
Just couldn't get into this. Only gave it two essays.
This book gave me the willies. Not because it was scary by any stretch of the imagination, but because every time I read a chapter I had the weirdest feeling of déjà vu. I had to keep checking to see if I had read this book already even though I've never read any Merril Markoe before. It was a strange and unexplained phenomena.

No déjà vu reading the dog essays though. I skipped over those. I get the appeal of dogs as pets, but dog people speaking in their dogs voice, well, that also gives me the
This feels like a collection of essays rather than a straight-forward, purpose-built memoir, as there's no real throughline between the stories. Each chapter is a different episode in Markoe's life and thee are a few imagined conversations with her dogs. I remember enjoying her earlier book What the Dogs Have Taught Me , but that was more than 20 years ago and memories fade. Except Merrill's, apparently. She's still kind of pissed at her mom. But then, who isn't, really? Well, according to Merri ...more
Overall a fun, funny read. Markoe is at her most successful when she's telling stories about specific experiences like being a wallflower at the S&M ball ("I could buy one of those mini nurse/go-go dancer uniforms just like the ones the Red Cross nurses all wore that time a hurricane hit a brothel and everyone had to take refuge in an S&M dungeon.") or being belittled by her narcissistic mother (“If I can’t criticize you, what are we supposed to talk about? The weather?”).

I was less fon
Heidi Wiechert
I had never heard of Merrill Markoe or read any of her books before, so this was a totally new experience for me.

I just finished a set of essays by Chelsea Handler and their styles are completely (!!!) different- Markoe's are far better written and with less swearing, but Handler's make me laugh out loud while Markoe's have me smiling every once in awhile.

I wasn't enjoying them much until Markoe laid the trauma hammer right into my unsuspecting brain with her essay about sleeping with her colleg
The opening line is "For most of her life, my mother was varying degrees of pissed off," and the book just gets better from there. Brilliant essays and memoir from I think one of the under-appreciated comic forces of our time. This should be up there with the best of David Sedaris and "Bossypants." In fact, MM is kind of a grown-up Tina Fey and I mean that with love to both. A must read.
Carla Stafford
One of the reviews for this book was written be Jon Stewart. Apparently, his support, his witty disposition, his fabulous hair, and my apparent shallow reasoning for book selection, led to me checking out Cool, Calm, and Contentious, by Merrill Markoe from the library site.

There are some very funny essays in this book. For some reason, I find it ESPECIALLY entertaining when Merrill Markoe writes from the point of view of her four dogs. I am not sure what that says about me, but there it is. I al
I wanted to like this book more then I did. I think my expectations were much different then what the book delivered. I found parts to be funny and provide good advice, but overall, I don't think Markoe's writing connected with me.
The essays about assholes, narcissists, and David Letterman were entertaining. The rest were just fine, but not particularly insightful. The ones (multiple!) where she has conversations with her dogs bumped it down a star.
Overall, kind of meh about this one. Parts of Merrill Markoe's memoir, Cool, Calm and Contentious, were very, very funny. The bits with her dogs, in particular, had me chuckling. l. She discusses all of the things that she allows her dogs to do -- wake her up at the crack of dawn to eat, hog every inch of the bed -- and asks us to imagine a human being exhibiting similar behavior.

Unfortunately, most of the rest of the book wasn't very good. I did enjoy her stories about her mother's narcissism -
I have a belief about books made up of collections of essays--all the essays need to be connected by some sort of unifying theme or all the essays have to be completely unrelated to each other. Cool, Calm and Contentious is an example of a book somewhere in the middle of that.

And it just goes to prove my point.

I remember reading one of Merrill Markoe's earlier works, although I can't remember which one or what it was about (that should have told me something). When I saw her on The Colbert Repor
I decided to read Cool, Calm, and Contentious after seeing Merrill Markoe on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart (talk about good publicity, eh?). They discussed the beginning of the book when she talks about her mother's travel diaries and how she was critical of almost every single place she visited, and I thought it sounded funny so I was intrigued.

What followed that chapter was not necessarily a laugh-out-loud type of book, so I was a bit disappointed but overall most chapters left me smiling.
Kate Woods Walker
Markoe is at her funniest--as are most funny people--when she's cuddled up next to her pain and giving it a playful tweak on the nose. The essays about her relationship with her mother are the best of the book, and I wish she had just plunged full-on into the sea of mother-daughter dysfunction and made the whole book about that.

But that's just me. Others may wish for more sardonic reflections about Bobby, the ex-boyfriend who bears an uncanny resemblance to a bespectacled, balding late-night tal
Pamela Kramer
Cool, Calm and Contentious by Merrill Markoe is a funny book filled with witty comments about everyday life, mothers, Christmas, virginity, and -- most hilarious to me, personally -- dogs.

Merrill has four dogs, so immediately any dog lover knows she has plenty of humorous material to mine. After discussing Cesar Milan's method of dog training, Merrill comes up with her own theories and methods.

Her chapter "selling" her (patent pending) Flexible Cohabitation is one of the funniest things I have r
I read this book because the author did a post on Regretsy and it was really funny. I was also drawn to the description which stated that because she is a dog lover a good chunk of her work is devoted to talking about her dogs.

First of all I really liked the lack of any over-arching organization and how the book jumped around very randomly as each chapter offered a rather self-contained neat little snippet of her life and/or opinions. This made it a great book to read while simultaneously readin
I really love Markoe's work and have been a fan of hers for a long time. However, I also wish I could be her editor. Markoe is a gifted and hilarious writer, but even the best need an objective, critical eye. Her editor (Andy Ward) is well-known, but somehow his presence is not felt in this work.

For example:
- There is a lack of unifying theme throughout this book, which is not always problematic in a collection of essays. A critical editor may have suggested placing the wildfire piece last, whic
Patrick Ross
Merrill Markoe is a very funny woman. She is an accomplished professional humor writer, but most notably for others (including famous talk-show hosts), so it's nice to spend a little time with her via personal essays. I will say that for me, this book starts out amazingly and then begins to taper off. Had you asked me to review it after the first three essays, I would have given it a 5. I kept laughing out loud during the first two--both dealing with her narcissistic mother--and when my wife cam ...more
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An author, a television writer and a sometime standup comedienne.
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“By the time the last of these relationships ended I was such a quaking mass of colliding, exploding neurotransmitter malfunctions that the only coherent sentence I could form in my native tongue went: "Never again.” 3 likes
“Younger love, it seemed, was mainly about the idea of potential--the illusion that magical transformations were bound to occur when the person you think you love has a miraculous impromptu awakening after some metaphorical lightning bolt, made out of your wishes and projections, suddenly brings them to their senses. On the other hand, older love is all about what you are hoping is still possible, after you have mourned the death of the idea of yourself as manufacturer of miracles. Older love starts with the unpleasant truth that expecting a person to change for the better spontaneously, simply because you wish it, makes as much sense as counting on the lottery for next month's rent.” 2 likes
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