LIFE'S GUILTY pleasures are the best. That's what makes cholesterol so much fun, and smoking, and fumbling around at the drive-in.
The axiom even holds true in reading. Case in point: "Not Available in Any Store" (Pantheon, $8.95), by Richard Rosen with design and illustrations by Steve Vance.
This inspired paperback, in the form of a mail order catalog, makes a comic book promise: "Eliminate all the social, psychological and moral inconveniences of daily life!"
For example, that pesky problem facing working women: Will the kids suffer from lack of motherly attention? The solution: FacsiMommy, "a realistic life-size model of Mommy -- dressed in Mommy's clothes and wearing Mommy's 'smell.' Your child need never be far from a calming representation of his or her maternal care-giver. . . . FacsiMommy is so lifelike that many children can't even tell the difference!"
Then there's the small problem of human misery. "Poverty's unsightly, and until now you've had no choice but to deal with it, especially in urban areas," the book begins. "These days there's even more of it, and that means there's more of it you wish would just go away so you can pretend that everyone else is as fortunate as you are."
The solution: Stewart Goodlife Lenses, "the one and only contact lens that filters out poverty and the poor from your field of vision, leaving only pleasing people and objects to contemplate."
Tasteless? Sure. But here's where guilt is delicious: Laughter is merely the release of discordant little tensions in the mind, and this stuff is consistently funny.
Not the least of the pleasures here is znce's retro-'50s design. His line drawings are of grinning square-jawed men and beaming bob-haired women. The typography comes straight from advertising's pre-MTV days; it looks like splashy old newsreel titles. And the small touches are a scream. The wavy logo for Harrison Moats ("to defend your home against the invasive actions of criminals, riffraff, common peasants and disabled motorists"), for example, comes with a fine-print disclaimer: "Water Not Included."
Those with an underdeveloped appreciation of satire may stop reading here. For the rest of us, some more guilty pleasures:
The Gladstone Grief Processor. "Now you can cut the length of your mourning period up to 95 percent by electronically condensing the neuro-
psychological process by which you assimilate loss and 'get on with your life.' "
The Pocket Lawyer, the hand-held legal computer that files nuisance suits, executes lengthy contracts, files motions to compel, makes intimidating phone calls, and more!
The Caswell Life-Editing System, which edits out unpleasant memories by applying video editing technology to one's memory.
The Quatch -- the only watch that keeps track of quality time.
Philophax, the daily planner for self-absorbed neurotics. Comes with these standard daily headings: Anxieties, Regrets, Philosophical Quandaries, Unrealistic Fantasies and Pointless Obsessions. Also includes the Five-Year Fear Planner, "a fold-out calendar that lets you record not only your present fears, but the fears you fear that you'll fear far into the future."
"The Wide World of Everything" video. "Sixty minutes. One hour. And you'll never have to watch a documentary again."
Finally, something truly useful: the Media Compactor. It beats information overload by compacting up to 25 pounds of printed matter into a neatly typewritten summary covering only your areas of interest. Celebrity profiles and horoscopes, say.
You can start with this article.