Anthologies can be kind of repetitive, with entry after entry harping on the same tired subject. The theme of Things I've Learned from Women Who've Dumped Me feels particularly uninspired, as the genre of men bitching about women is arguably the most prominent in the history of literature. But the credentials of editor Ben Karlin (co-editor of America: The Book) combined with the book's impressive list of contributors (Andy Richter, Stephen Colbert, Neal Pollack, and more) piqued my interest all the same.
The hilarious David Wain (writer/co-star of the short-lived Comedy Central show Stella) kicks things off early on with a short screenplay about romantic flakiness in the age of cell phones. Wain's offbeat comic details read better on paper than they sound onscreen. "I met you the other night at that party?" the protagonist says to his crush at one point. "Remember I sat on the plate of cupcakes and had to take off my jeans? And we laughed, and then we made out?"
Other highlights include Pollack's "Don't Come on Your Cat" (title = self-explanatory); the brilliant Sam Lipsyte's "Notes Towards a Unified Theory of Dumping"; and fiction writer Bruce Jay Friedman's "She Wasn't the One," in which the protagonist learns to appreciate his current flame by visiting an old girlfriend.
In general, the pieces written by actual writers read well, while the pieces written by performers read like something that belongs in front of an audience. Patton Oswalt's essay about strippers could be a good outline for one of his standup routines, while Stephen Colbert's expletive-filled "The Heart Is a Choking Hazard" is a one-joke pony that wears out its welcome after the first paragraph. A lewd critique of the vagina from the Mercury's own Dan Savage is funny enough, but will offer nothing new to those who already read his column.
Things' title is ultimately deceiving; if we men actually learned anything from getting our asses handed to us by the ladies, we probably wouldn't keep crawling back. Failing as an educational experience, the book does however succeed as a metaphor for actually being dumped: It's intermittently interesting while you're in it, but looking back, you wonder how it ever happened at all.