Can you take a joke? Do you appreciate parody? We’ll see...
Jen Bilik, 38, is the owner and creative director of Knock Knock Books in Venice, a small, 5-year-old publishing house specializing in humor-driven paper products such as organizers, greeting cards and illustrated notepads. She was formerly an editor at Rizzoli Press, that well-known publisher of no-nonsense guides to gardening, health and fitness, cooking and spirituality.
Perhaps it was her serious background that partly led to her creating the very funny “Self-Hurt Series.” Try these titles: “How To Get Into Debt,” “...Drive Like a Maniac,” “...Get Fat,” “...Traumatize Your Children,” “...Have an Ill-Behaved Dog,” and “...Procrastinate.”
The titles will be available for $9.95 each by mid-September at many independent bookstores and boutiques, Z Galleries, Urban Outfitters, and at www.knockknockstuff.com and www.amazon.com
Meanwhile, I phoned Bilik at her office last Tuesday.
Q: How did this happen?
A: Like so many others, I’m an avid consumer of self-help books. But there is such pressure in this country in our quest for perfectionism—mental, physical, spiritual. Nothing seems good enough. The self-help industry taps into our vulnerabilities, and its books have the perverse effect of making us feel worse about ourselves because we can’t live up to expectations.
Q: So you became a guerrilla.
A: I’m the one who sassed the teacher in class when something didn’t make sense. I found myself wanting to prick the self-help balloon with a pin. I started seeing its step-by-step quality and rah-rah nature. I thought, “What if we turned it inside out and applied its goals to more questionable virtues?”
Q: Did you personally write the series?
A: The concept came internally and we (hired) freelancers. We gave them the outlines and creative briefs, and I did the editing. The challenge was creating the sense of continuity (from one title to the next).
Q: Are you fat and do you procrastinate?
A: Yes and yes.
Q: Are you in debt?
A: I’m not a good money manager.
Q: Do you drive like a maniac?
Q: What about your dog?
A: One of them is ill-behaved. I have no children, but I have traumatized the children of others.
Q: Anything else?
A: I wish you the worst.