Reading Sandra Tsing Loh leaves me breathless, and in the best possible way, from too much laughing. Reading her is akin to watching Robin Williams when he performed his one-person comedy routines. She has, as he had, that rare ability to come at us like jazz musicians riffing: fast and furious, insightful and poignant, enlightening and maddening. There are no one-liners here, but multi-prong judgments that Loh is very adept at, having written quite a few books that you can find here. Her work is as fresh and biting as ever.
As the madwoman (crazed and angry) protagonist in these essays, she has hit her golden years--mid-fifties; dealing with her elderly father, who has always been a handful; daughters emerging from childhood with their own views of life; divorce and a significant other. She skewers what many of us think about modern life, but dare not say, and definitely could not do with her panache and humor. She is very smart, and it shows in her intentional comments about cultural trends and conventions, while tossing in allusions to older ideas, and all the time not willing to give up on being engaged with life--a curmudgeon with a twinkle deeply buried in her soul. Even showing appreciation for perfection presents Loh with issues, as when visiting Carmel Grove, " ... it's so beautiful it scars you forever. It secretly makes you hate any place that isn't it--like your own home." Her aging craftsman house is badly in need of major repairs and HGTV creates a dreamy illusion that it will be a snap. Loh knows that's not the reality in L.A., where, " ... you'd spend a year just waiting for permits. And for contractors!" Come tax season, she and her partner get into a verbal duel over who has the best accountant, given the lifestyles of each tax preparer. Tiger Mom aspirations were never a goal, but suddenly she cannot even figure out the grading system at daughter Hannah's school. There are emojis and an epsilon where once there were letter grades. Going to the doctor, getting weighed and having your blood pressure taken seem to be contradictory activities. First you get weighed and then they, " ... slap a cuff on you and immediately take your blood pressure after you've just seen your actual weight in red digital letters," pondering why it's so high. Finally, when Loh's father succumbs to death, after numerous times being brought back from the brink, the family has a funeral and memorial like no other. Unique and original are characteristics of Sandra Tsing Loh's family, even in death.
There are times when her references catch me offguard, but the rhythm of her writing is compellng. From her heart and soul come ideas that are antidotes for what ails us about modern life. Grab some tissues, be ready to clutch your sides because she will have you gasping and laughing, and right now we need those laughs more than ever.