From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain
by Minister Faust
Published by Ballantine Books
390 pages, 2007
Iconoclastic Means You Can Too!
Reviewed by Andi Shechter
One of the blurb words that makes me twitch is “romp.” When I see a book described as a romp, I usually try to hide it in the big stack over there and try never to open it. (Note: I don’t like “gritty” books, I hate “sassy” characters and think the words “page” and “turner” should be banned. So there.)
There’s no way around it though. From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain is a romp. It’s hilarious, it’s edgy, it’s smart and it’s a hoot. The premise is silly enough -- group therapy for some of the world’s superheroes. Minister Faust not only knows psychobabble and uses it well, but he gets into the personalities of the various heroes and villains with exceptional wit and talent.
It’s hard enough being a superhero, but no one ever said that being one made you a nice guy. The old timers really hate the new kids, and the new kids find the old dudes stodgy and tiresome.
As the title suggests, From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain purports to be the notes taken by therapist Eva Brain-Silverman. With chapter titles like “Iconoclastic means ‘I Can!’”. She knows every syndrome, she understands every thought, because she’s worked in this field for a long time. As she points out, she’s had 20 years at the “Hyper-Potentiality Clinic” helping the “extraordinarily abled.”
From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain is a hoot. If you have issues with feel-good therapy, with books that use affirmations and sayings to solve serious issues, with talk show therapists, or even with kids today, read this book. Dr. Brain -- who is wholly convinced of her ability to fix everyone, everything and has a name (often trademarked) for every condition, every twitch and every behavior -- is so effortlessly cheerful and determined, you just want to whap her. She lectures, she hectors, she never stops selling (you’ll want to pick up her earlier works which include Unmasked! When Being A Superhero Can't Save You From Yoursel). She is a walking, talking corporate motivational poster.
I would say that my biggest challenge with this book was keeping some of the people straight. That shouldn’t have happened, but it did. Faust has so much energy in his writing that everyone is on stage, then off, then back on. There are only six superheroes to keep track of but I just got lost from time to time. Flying Squirrel (What? All the good names/costumes were taken?) is a 79 year old billionaire who seems to own half of anything. Omnipotent Man (Really, were these names on sale?) is also an aging superhero at 71, is also battling to be number one. I found “Power Grrrl” to be the funniest: imagine if you will Jessica or Britney or Christina or some other pop twinkie fixed up as a super-hero and you’ll get her. They’re all rather predictable and yet the intense goofiness of the book makes them all tolerable.
This is a book that is difficult to categorize. Humor, as we all know, is a tough one. Dr. Brain’s endless explaining of how hard it is out there, or the author’s offering of evil villain names like “Codzilla” and “Nemesaur” (in the special Fish & Reptile Unit) of the prison asteroid where all bad guys go is hilarious to me. You might find it silly. You could sit down and do an assessment as Dr. Brain recommends on page 225 (where she talks about “psychemotional barnacles” that attach to the ship of your consciousness”). Or you could just be sure not to be drinking while reading, if you’re the type to do spit takes. | September 2007
Andi Shechter has been a publicist, chat host, interviewer, convention-planner, essayist and reviewer. She lives in Seattle with far too many books, an old-but-cute purple computer, not enough soft toys (including a small but select hedgehog and gorilla collection), many figure skating videotapes and an esoteric collection of hot sauces. There's a Hugo Award on her mantelpiece which belongs to her partner, cartoonist and artist Stu Shiffman.