Decorative Napkin Folding For Beginners


The local church where I go for my weekly A.A. meeting is a treasure trove of… books that I would never buy under any circumstances. Luckily, these books are given away for free in a bin by the front door. I already got one article out of a book from there, and I predict future articles about them up until the point where my editor tells me to “please stop already.”

The intent of the people giving away these books is probably not that they be satirized on a hipster website. They’re probably meant to go to leper orphans or something. However, my response to that is this: “F-ck that.” If I can’t drink for the rest of my life and have to go to A.A. meetings where people talk about God, then I need some other source of fun in my life. If I was still drinking, I’d probably be dead by now. Now, I am f-cked by still being alive, but what are you going to do?

Life is boring; silly books are silly. Today I got the following books from the free bin:

  1. A romance novel called Almost Heaven by someone named Judith McNaught. Her previous book was called Something Wonderful. I’m going to take a wild f-cking stab and guess that she’s a sh-tty writer. This is from the back cover: “No beauty of England could outshine Elizabeth Cameron, Countess of Havenhurst.” I just Googled this: there is no such thing as being a Countess of Havenhurst. How hard would it be to have her be the Countess of a real thing? I am now opening the book and putting my finger on a paragraph at random: “Elizabeth choked on her tea. ‘Another suitor! You are joking,’ she sputtered.” Oh, Elizabeth. Just wait until she meets the dangerously handsome Ian Thornton, who is described as such on the back of the book. God these names are so fake.
  2. I also got Carleton Varney Decorates Windows, by Carleton Varney. Here’s the first sentence of the book: “During my career as a decorator, I have observed that many people would rather jump out a window than decorate one!” That’s a high level of hyperbole there, Carleton. Also, it suggests that window decorating is a potentially hazardous job, requiring a degree in psychology or a police badge. “Back away from the window, Mrs. Neville. They’re just… curtains; you see? You can hang them; Jesus Christ I swear that you can.” Long pause. “…No. Not again.” And then you go home to your wife: “I lost another one today. Damn this job.”
  3. Funk & Wagnalls Standard Reference Encyclopedia, Volume 18, NEVADA to OZONE. Opening at random and putting my finger down: “Upon the mountains granitic rocks predominate.”
  4. Beauty’s Punishment, which is one of those bad “sexy” books that Anne Rice used to write under a fake name, and which is wildly inappropriate to give away from a free bin in a church, but cool. I hate these books. My stripper ex-girlfriend used to keep these in her bathroom. They all featured flogging. That’s all they were about: flogging. Ugh. Opening at random: “The Whipping Master stepped back. He whirled the turntable round and round. My buttocks boiled.” I swear I got that at random. What the hell is Anne Rice’s problem?
  5. And then the book that this article is ostensibly about..



by Lillian Oppenheimer and Natalie Epstein


This book really killed me with the sadness of the cover. It’s my favorite. And though the title seems to suggest the promise of a sequel, I Googled again, and there is no “Decorative Napkin Folding for Advanced Shut-ins.” Presumably Ms. Oppenheimer and Ms. Epstein died in a dreadful tragic napkin fire before they could complete it.

As someone who was obsessed with origami as a kid, I can sympathize with the creators of this book. They think that folding things is interesting. Which means that they’re insane. I was insane as a kid, but later on learned to hide it. So we have a lot in common.

This book is amazing. It teaches you 22 different kinds of decorative napkin folds. The names of the folds are all in all-caps. So, you can learn NEST, CANDLE, SWAN, DUTCH HAT, and other such folds. You can then have people over for a fancy dinner party and say, “I learned how to make CARDINAL’S HAT today; what do you think of it? No; you’re unfolding it too fast.” “…How darling. Amazing,” your guests will murmur. “You really shouldn’t have done all this,” they’ll say, and the nice thing is, they’ll mean it.

Here are selected excerpts from Decorative Napkin Folding for Beginners. Don’t thank me. This is my job; I get paid for this. I find the quotes to be oddly beautiful, in a minimal, haiku-y sort of way. But maybe you’re just wishing that I had quoted from the flogging book instead. Here you go; enjoy:

  • “Not many generations back, napkin folding was a backstairs accomplishment.”
  • “The easy ones are in the front of the book.”
  • “Do them first.”
  • “Press firmly, so that the finished creation may be fresh and crisp — ready to grace an invalid’s tray or a holiday table.”
  • “BOAT.”
  • “Anybody can fold napkins!”
  • “There is… no reason why waiters should have all the fun.”
  • “HEART.”
  • “Remember that each picture shows you two things.”
  • “Pull up the neck and beak, as in 7.”
  • “Press firmly.”
  • “Nowadays it is virtually a trade secret among waiters.”
  • “There is not even any reason why napkins should be linen.”
  • “CLOWN’S HAT.”
  • “The user will have as much fun trying to figure out how you did it as you had in the making.”
  • “You feel like royalty.”
  • “$2.25 in U.S.A.”

…God, I feel like weeping now. I hope you enjoyed that as much as I did; I’m sure you didn’t. I guess, as an outcast kid, I learned to have sympathy for all abandoned things — not to make this essay too profound all of a sudden; but, well. The way that I felt sympathy for the ugly coffee mugs in our cabinet that we never used; that’s the way that I feel about this book.

Listen: we all have passion for things that no one else will ever be interested in. That’s just part of being human. For example, one of my failed passions is trying to convince other people that Alien 3 is actually a good movie, which is never going to work out, but I can’t get over it; that movie, so underrated. But I have other, even dumber passions, like my interest in pachinko machines, and in used Pez dispensers.

Some people love Ham Radio; some people collect bottlecaps. The whole wide world may never share our love for these things, but in most of us resides the secret belief that if we just explained them right, everyone else would be interested too. That’s what drove Lillian Oppenheimer and Natalie Epstein to write this book, I guess.

Maybe someday, someone will love us enough to fondly regard all our dumb passions, like folding ASCOT, or PEACOCK. …That’s our only hope, really. To trick someone into loving us so that they have to pay attention to these things. One day, that’ll happen, and on that day, we’ll truly “feel like royalty,” as they hold our folded HEART in their hands.

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