Born in NY; married. Education: Arizona State University, received degree.
Writer, essayist, and humorist. Cofounder, Planet magazine.
The Idiot Girls' Action-Adventure Club (autobiographical essays), Villard Books (New York, NY), 2002.
Autobiography of a Fat Bride: True Tales of a Pretend Adulthood (autobiographical essays), Villard Books (New York, NY), 2003.
I Love Everybody (and Other Atrocious Lies): True Tales of a Loudmouth Girl (autobiographical essays), Villard Books (New York, NY), 2004.
We Thought You Would Be Prettier: True Tales of the Dorkiest Girl Alive (autobiographical essays), Villard Books (New York, NY), 2005.
An Idiot Girl's Christmas: True Tales from the Top of the Naughty List, Villard Books (New York, NY), 2005.
There's a (Slight) Chance I Might Be Going to Hell: A Novel of Sewer Pipes, Pageant Queens, and Big Trouble, Villard (New York, NY), 2007.
Author of weekly column for Arizona Republic and a daily online column.
Laurie Notaro is a humor columnist who has collected her essays into several autobiographical books, focusing on the details of her life and interpreting them in funny but universal ways. She becomes a form of "Everywoman," observed Library Journal reviewer Kathy Ingels Helmond: "not quite pretty enough, not the popular one, not good at holding a job or a man." As critical of herself as of others, Notaro ties extra knots in the threads that run from common subject to common subject, binding her readers together as participants in humanity.
The Idiot Girls' Action-Adventure Club, Notaro's first collection of essays, was originally self-published after seven years of rejections by more than seventy editors. When an agent offered to represent her, Notaro agreed without much hope, but her first two books were sold within three days. Perhaps even more satisfying for Notaro was that the publisher that finally accepted her books, Villard, had rejected her several times in the past. For this reason, in an interview on the Writers Monthly Web site Notaro advises new writers to "get an agent. The right agent for you. It's like finding a husband. Your agent needs to really understand what kind of work you do. Your agent needs to know who to shop it to and be willing to go to bat for you."
The Idiot Girls' Action-Adventure Club chronicles her "daring exploits and comical mishaps as she matures from wild teenager to disheveled adult," noted a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Notaro is "not too embarrassed to write about her adventures in high-school reunions, breakups, jury duty, and more," commented Connie Ogle in the Miami Herald. She explores the vicissitudes of drink and the effects of too much alcohol on one's reputation; she skewers the self-deceptions that follow discovered infidelities, as desperate and delusional as they may be; she explores her similarities to comic Janeane Garofalo, an apt comparison because of the "blunt self-deprecation that fuels both women's humor," the Publishers Weekly writer observed.
Autobiography of a Fat Bride: True Tales of a Pretend Adulthood begins with several tales of how Notaro was dumped again and again by no-account boyfriends, but it hits a note of optimism when she describes how the Good Guy arrives in her life just like a miracle. With her culinary skills at frying cutlets, she zeroes in on the Good Guy and finally makes him her husband. The details of courtship, marriage ceremonies, and first-time cohabitation form the core of Notaro's observations in this collection, and the inherent absurdities of satisfying in-laws, the stress of a wedding, and the unexpected financial events supply the humor. Notaro tackles all the book's subjects "with the inimitable, acerbic wit and ruthless, self-deprecating candor that have deservedly earned her legions of loyal fans," commented Booklist contributor Carol Haggas. "Notaro's depiction of her life as a series of amusing anecdotes provides a fun read for fans of humor essays," remarked Donna Marie Smith in Library Journal.
I Love Everybody (and Other Atrocious Lies): True Tales of a Loudmouth Girl settles in on Notaro's life as an adult professional in her mid-thirties. In one incident, she dwells on the embarrassments inherent in the working life, such as when she met a new boss and, having a cold, blew bubbles out her nose. Other humorous passages discuss the seemingly endless stream of spam e-mail her sister keeps sending her and the singular experience of passing kidney stones. More pensively, she reflects on the lives of her friends who are having children and considers the unmistakable sound of her own ticking biological clock. Notaro retains her microscopic focus on the minutiae of her and her friends' lives, but she "is at her best when she broadens her horizons beyond the quotidian mishaps of modern life," commented a Publishers Weekly reviewer.
As its title indicates, An Idiot Girl's Christmas: True Tales from the Top of the Naughty List focuses on the embarrassments and ironic humor of the Christmas holiday. Notaro includes her witty take on the ubiquitous Christmas wish-list (hers includes Baby Jesus socks and candles shaped like baked goods), food, shopping, and relatives. Enjoying Notaro's jokes but finding her more serious observations overly sentimental, Entertainment Weekly contributor Melissa Rose Bernardo concluded that Notaro is at her best in this book when her humor is its "most biting."
With There's a (Slight) Chance I Might Be Going to Hell: A Novel of Sewer Pipes, Pageant Queens, and Big Trouble, Notaro made her fiction debut. The narrative follows protagonist Maye, a former reporter and freelance writer, and her professor husband as they relocate from Phoenix to a seemingly idyllic small town in Washington state. Perfect as this setting appears, Maye finds it difficult to make new friends and fit in. But when she hears about the annual Sewer Pipe Pageant, a talent show open to anyone, she decides that this will be her shortcut to acceptance. Intent on winning, she begins to research past pageants, only to uncover a mystery involving a past winner who has driven out of town years before. Trashionista contributor Diane Shipley enjoyed the book, observing that "there's a credible mystery woven into a story about trying to fit in, and it all works really well." Though a writer for Publishers Weekly felt that the plot sometimes "falls flat," the reviewer added that Notaro makes Maye a strong enough character to keep readers' sympathy while imbuing the novel with the same "winningly acerbic riffs" that have won Notaro many devoted fans.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, June 1, 2003, Carol Haggas, review of Autobiography of a Fat Bride: True Tales of a Pretend Adulthood, p. 1729.
Books, June 2, 2007, Kristin Kloberdanz, review of There's a (Slight) Chance I Might Be Going to Hell: A Novel of Sewer Pipes, Pageant Queens, and Big Trouble, p. 8.
Entertainment Weekly, December 16, 2005, Melissa Rose Bernardo, review of An Idiot Girl's Christmas: True Tales from the Top of the Naughty List, p. 88.
Herizons, summer, 2003, Kerry Ryan, review of The Idiot Girls' Action-Adventure Club, p. 40.
Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2002, review of The Idiot Girls' Action-Adventure Club, p. 550; May 15, 2003, review of Autobiography of a Fat Bride, p. 736.
Library Journal, May 15, 2002, Kathy Ingels Helmond, review of The Idiot Girls' Action-Adventure Club, p. 98; July, 2003, Donna Marie Smith, review of Autobiography of a Fat Bride, p. 82; April 1, 2007, Amy Watts, review of There's a (Slight) Chance I Might Be Going to Hell, p. 83.
Miami Herald, August 20, 2002, Connie Ogle, review of The Idiot Girls' Action-Adventure Club.
Publishers Weekly, June 3, 2002, review of The Idiot Girls' Action-Adventure Club, p. 81; May 12, 2003, review of Autobiography of a Fat Bride, p. 51; April 26, 2004, review of I Love Everybody (and Other Atrocious Lies): True Tales of a Loudmouth Girl, p. 50; April 2, 2007, review of There's a (Slight) Chance I Might Be Going to Hell, p. 37.
BookReporter.com,http://www.bookreporter.com/ (November 28, 2005), Maggie Harding, review of We Thought You Would Be Prettier: True Tales of the Dorkiest Girl Alive.
Laurie Notaro Home Page,http://www.idiotgirls.com (November 7, 2007).
Trashionista,http://www.trashionista.com/ (November 7, 2007), Diane Shipley, review of There's a (Slight) Chance I Might Be Going to Hell.
Writers Monthly Online,http://www.writersmonthly.us/ (November 28, 2005), Leah Peterson, "On Being Laurie Notaro" (interview).