Spotlight for the Mundane: A Review of ‘Activities of Daily Living’ by Larry O. Dean
Larry O. Dean has a way with redefining some of the most average items, places, and routines that fill our days so that they hold new and amusing qualities. Activities of Daily Living is a breezy three-part poetry collection that balances lengthy and detailed pieces with short, punchy delights.
The collection is divided into Sound Effects, Horoscopious, and Small Machines. He opens with The Sound Effects Bible which takes the repetitive written style straight out of Genesis and incorporates the creation of modern sounds, leading to a fascinating assortment of swooshes, zips, and everything under the sun.
The Sound Effects section is rich with clever wordplay as evident in the straightforward, yet oddly beautiful word jumble that is Amanda Seyfried. The first batch of poems do tend to jump all over the place, but the random progression begins to feel familiar after the blend of humorous insights and stark observations. A Contestant reveals the tragedy behind a game show experience with results that are just pathetic and embarrassing while PowerBar Pro Meets Ferret Expert spins the bizarre musings of two very different individuals who end up speaking in parallel manners due to their obsessions.
The collection shifts into a more consistent tone with the set of poems that make up Horoscopious. Each sign is represented by a passage of its own. Dean offers intriguing generalizations as well as oddly specific predictions that perfectly mimic astrological sections in your average magazine or mystic manual. I enjoyed picturing who in my life would match up to these bits and as a fellow Sagittarian, I can perhaps buy into this ominous and exciting fortune: “The longest trip you have ever taken is nothing compared to the journey you are about to take.” I’m ready for the ride, even if the idea is simply for a work of poetry.
Small Machines consists of several rapid fire pieces that build on hilarity and returns to Dean’s cheeky charm. A personal favorite of the collection overall, Inside the Lives of Royal Bachelors, is featured in this final section. The clever wordplay and alliteration alone will bring a smile to your face, especially as you laugh along at the expense of these frat-boy dukes, earls, and counts.
I greatly appreciate a good laugh and Dean delivers with brief poems like Confused About Vitamins. He isn’t afraid of just coming out and saying what needs to be said and he smartly saves flowery language and deeper meanings for when it can be fully appreciated. The finale of this collection is a lovely bookend with a Biblical theme, although this time with a story rather than an homage to the Old Testament. I Was in the Shower When the Rapture Happened is once again an example of Dean’s work with comedy, even in a bizarre and somewhat melancholic turn of events. The solitary pondering of a person left behind reveals how silly and ridiculous our thoughts can be while trying to make sense of it all.
A collection of keen observations, people-watching, and imaginative detail, Activities for Daily Living breathes new life into the forgotten. Dean makes excellent work with romanticizing, doting over, and bringing a little attention to everyday objects. In these pages you can expect to find a love letter to a couch, a pitiful examination of a used-up toothpaste tube, the promising night that a case of Miller Lite and a box of doughnuts can inspire, and the importance of a really good sandwich.
Activities of Daily Living
Larry O. Dean
*Originally published on Chicago Literati