REVIEW – The Pursuit of Grouchiness: Oscar the Grouch’s Guide to Life

Published: April 17, 2019
Categories: Feature, Reviews

Apparently they’ll give anyone a book deal these days. Last year, Cookie Monster wrote a book called The Joy of Cookies, and now here’s The Pursuit of Grouchiness: Oscar the Grouch’s Guide to Life, in stores now. It’s perhaps the most high-profile book by a television grouch since A Minute with Andy Rooney. The Cookie Monster book was printed with every copy looking like it had a bite taken out of it, but for better or for worse, the Oscar book is not garbage-scented.

As a Sesame Street nerd, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that this is not the first-ever book written in Oscar’s voice, from his point of view. There was 1975’s Oscar’s Book, and How to Be a Grouch in 1976. But this one is different. It’s not a children’s book, really, although kids would probably have fun with it. This one is aimed at older kids and grown-ups with a fondness for a cranky character they watched on TV in their childhoods. It’s also aimed less at super-fans than normal-fans, so don’t expect any references to Swamp Mushy Muddy or baby Irvine. 

Unlike the books from the ‘70s, but following in the footsteps of The Joy of CookiesGrouchiness is only credited to Oscar the Grouch, with no “co-written by” or “as told to” in sight. If you look carefully at the copyright page, though, you’ll find a “special thanks” to Julie Kraut, and if you look up Julie Kraut, you’ll find that she is an author. You know what that means, don’t you? That’s right: Oscar the Grouch has been writing books for years under the pen name “Julie Kraut!” 

The new book is separated into four parts: “A Few of My Least Favorite Things,” “Grouch Life,” “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People,” and “Word to Grouch By.” What’s the difference between the four? I couldn’t really tell you.  They all consist of a series of bon mots from inside the trash can. It’s a pretty simple format. Each page features a photo, often with some illustrated enhancements, accompanied by a pearl of wisdom from Oscar. I get the impression that the author started by writing down as many common turns of phrase and platitudes as she could think of, then determined which ones could be most effectively twisted to grouchy effect.  

For example, “They say you’re never fully dressed without a smile. I say: Unless you’re wearing a trash can!” And “When life gives you lemons, put them in a blender with rotten tomatoes, dirty socks, and old cardboard. You probably won’t even taste the lemons!” 

Other pages sound more like quips you might find on Oscar’s Twitter. Like “My goal is to have morning breath all day long.” And “Monday is my favorite. It’s when everyone’s the grouchiest.” 

The result is an entertaining collection of jokes from TV’s most lovable jerkThey all sound perfectly in-character for Oscar, a few of them are chuckle-out-loud funny, and it’s great to see Oscar get the spotlight like this. 

But here’s the thing: I wouldn’t recommend reading the whole thing in one sitting, as I did. After a while, the formula of “Oscar says a grouchy thing, turn the page, repeat” starts to become overwhelming. Your best bet is to read each of the four parts separately, and take a break in between for some sardine ice cream or a Sandwich. Or just leave it on your coffee table, and flip through a few pages here and there. 

It would also make a fine gift, which is probably its intended purpose. Graduation season is just around the corner. What better way to congratulate the young adult in your life and wish them well than with a book by a filthy creature who rants about how much he hates everyone? It doesn’t even have to be for a special occasion. A gift of The Pursuit of Grouchiness would bring a smile to any Sesame Street fan, any time, which would no doubt horrify Oscar. 

One more thing before I go back to hanging out with my pet worm: The design of this book really works in its favor, with the captions, vibrant photos, and illustrations complementing each other nicely. But apparently at some point they ran out of high-resolution photos of Oscar, because there are a few images that pop up multiple times. Not that anyone but me would notice. But once you finish reading it the first time, a fun game would be to go back and see how many repeated poses you can find. Sometimes they PhotoShop a pair of sunglasses or a hat on him, so stay vigilant! And if you can’t find any, well, don’t let it make you grouchy.

Click here to congratulate me on that timely zinger of an Andy Rooney joke on the Tough Pigs forum! 

by Ryan Roe – 

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