Living It Up

Karen Finley, Author Doubleday Books $15.95 (149p) ISBN 978-0-385-48645-3
Performance artist Finley (Shock Treatment; Enough Is Enough) achieved notoriety several years ago when Senator Jesse Helms and others strenuously objected to the National Endowment for the Arts giving money to a woman who smeared chocolate on her breasts and called it art. Finley can be a more complex artist than that cartoonish image implies, but you wouldn't know it from her new book, a strained, tedious parody of the Martha Stewart school of happy homemaking. Arranged as a monthly guide, the text includes activities such as making a bathmat out of your hair as a Mother's Day gift, creating a John Wayne Bobbitt Father's Day party serving of--what else?--sausage and stirring up a ""Turkey Brew"" by stuffing the various elements of a Thanksgiving dinner into a fifty pound blender and liquefying. Willfully amateurish drawings accompany the assorted recipes, craft suggestions and household hints. Martha Stewart seems a ripe and easy subject for parody, and once in a while Finley's buckshot assaults graze their target (in gloomy February, ""I even make my own casket, and I'll share the plans with you right now.... It's more exquisite than any store-bought casket""). The onslaught wears thin, though, and too often Finley seems to have forgotten the basic rule of satire--that it be genuinely funny. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/02/1996
Release date: 09/01/1996
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