Thursday, March 08, 2012

Review: How To Be: NORTH DAKOTA

North Dakota's boom has brought new attention to the state, but few people outside of the northern plains know much beyond oil and the misguided belief that Mount Rushmore is here. Abe Sauer's solution is a new book of satire, "How To Be: NORTH DAKOTA - A Guide To The Plains", a primer on everything "top Dakota". The book is full of activities, short lessons in history and geography, and advice on how best to embody North Dakota itself. "How To Be..." is a quick read, written in short zinger-filled paragraphs, especially suited for fans of blogs and Uncle John's Bathroom Reader.

"How To Be..." is organized into topical chapters, addressing every aspect of the North Dakotan lifestyle. The jokes are satirical and bawdy, and while it gives appropriate attention to snow and lutefisk, Sauer can at times be harsh, acknowledging the darker aspects of North Dakota such as depression, Native American relations, and drug abuse.

Surprisingly, there's a lot to learn in Sauer's book. Despite the snarky humor, the book does contain many true facts about North Dakota. The book ends with a quiz, and because the real answer is so difficult to distinguish from the joke answers, getting a passing grade may be more difficult than expected. The amount of 'inside humor' betrays the fact that much of the written for North Dakotans themselves. "Hopefully, native North Dakotans will find a good number of inside jokes in the book, especially in the rundowns of individual towns," Sauer told me. "But I also wanted to keep it accessible to anyone looking to laugh and get to better know a state that is a lot more in the news lately, but for which the film 'Fargo' is still the standard of knowledge."

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