February 09, 2006


The Simple Truth about Love. By Bradley Trevor Greive. Andrews McMeel. $9.95.

In a Cell Phone Minute. By Judy Reiser. Andrews McMeel. $9.95.

     Groundhog Day and Valentine’s Day are both, in their own ways, harbingers of spring.  Love is always in season, of course, but there is something optimistic about setting aside a day in midwinter – right in the middle of a month that often has the worst weather of all – to recognize so supreme a human emotion.

     Or maybe it’s an animal emotion, as in Bradley Trevor Greive’s latest charming book – using, as usual, brief words and outstanding animal photos to illustrate some very human feelings.  The Simple Truth about Love is one of Greive’s best books, perhaps because there is no simple truth about love, and Greive knows it.  His introductory acknowledgments bring forth some of his funniest writing, starting with, “If ever I felt like a pungent fraud, this book proves that such inklings were perfectly correct.”  The entire book is funnier than many others by Greive.  Just when you know he is about to talk about French kissing, for instance, he writes “Hello Mr. Tongue!” beneath a photo of a cow’s impossibly long tongue, taken with a lens that makes it seem longer still.  For “a violent post-smooch rapture,” he gives us one of the cutest kitten photos ever, with the kitty standing on back paws, clutching front paws together as if holding an invisible microphone, with mouth half open as if singing an ecstatic love song.  Greive also throws in a few funny real-world jabs, for instance by noting that love “is an intoxicating force that draws all living creatures (except for telephone salespeople who call you at home and maybe aphids – we don’t know about them for sure).”  This last remark is beneath a photo of a toad so squat and bulbous that its sides are off the page.  Even when Greive gets serious here, he picks photos that keep the mood playful: “The process is all about trust” appears beneath a picture of two giant tortoises sticking their heads out of their shells toward each other, while “You have finally found true love” is underneath a picture of a big dog lying in a very relaxed posture, with one paw thrown protectively over a cat.  The Simple Truth about Love is simply delightful in any season – just like love itself.

     Of course, the ways of finding love do change over time.  Take the story of the man who was attracted to a woman in the car next to his.  He showed his cell phone, drove past her car, and she wrote her phone number in reverse on her car’s windshield – in lipstick – so he could call her.  They “got acquainted with each other over a few drinks” and then started dating.  As the pleased cell-phone user says, “I’m now happily married to someone else.”

     Okay, so things don’t always work out.  In a Cell Phone Minute – a cleverly designed book shaped like an overlarge you-know-what – chronicles outcomes happy, sad and hilarious.  One man gave his girlfriend a camera-equipped cell phone that already contained a picture of him holding up a sign asking her to marry him (she said yes).  After a big storm that caused a widespread blackout, when cell phones couldn’t get signals because so many people were trying to use them, some people used them as flashlights instead of communication devices.  A man whose cell phone was missing called the number to try to find it – and his dog started ringing: the dog had swallowed it (yes, the man got it back).  There are many other stories like these in Judy Reiser’s book – some funny, some serious, some touching – proving that cell phones now touch our lives every day and, like love, in every season.

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