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(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Robert Fulghum’s collection of reflective essays, UH-OH, subtitled “Some Observations from Both Sides of the Refrigerator Door,” details the attitude of the good sport, the “willing to try again” personality, and the unabashed optimist. Filled with such personal revelations as Fulghum’s admiration for the sixteenth century French essayist Michel Montaigne, his pleasure in sleeping against his wife like nested spoons, and his allegiance to Unitarianism, the essays skip hopscotch-fashion over a melange of subjects. Like a minister seeking just the right homely focus to introduce a weighty sermon, Fulghum uses unassuming openers—such as meatloaf, the Salvation Smarmy Band, hiccups, and a neighbor who dances to Aretha Franklin’s R-E-S-P-E-C-T—on which to build his pronouncements about life, love, and just getting along.

In the lead essay, from which the book takes its title, Fulghum characterizes the spunk of people who refuse to let minor catastrophes disturb their equilibrium. Such people, he notes, set forth like the Hudson Bay Company, accepting risks as part of the territory. Unlike Cinderella, who merely waits for some prince to appear at her door with a glass slipper of the appropriate size, risk-takers move into the line of fire.

Rounding out Fulghum’s homespun homilies is an italicized conclusion, which related the story of his New Mexican stew bowl. As with human beings, half the potter’s efforts never survive the firing and polishing stages. The final product, marked by individual quirks and blemishes, illustrates the concept of “uh-oh.” A broken line demonstrates that the potter is still alive, still creating dishes. Fulghum, unwilling to call a halt to the creation of essays, indicates that this third in his series of best-selling essay collections leads the way toward more.