Saturday, June 12, 2010

Review: One Red Paperclip by Kyle MacDonald

Title: One Red Paperclip: or How an Ordinary Man Achieved His Dream with the Help of a Simple Office Supply
Author: Kyle MacDonald
Publisher: Three Rivers Press (2007)
Paperback: 310 pages
Genre: Memoir
Rating: 4 out of 5
Source: bought

Synopsis: from product description
Kyle MacDonald had a paperclip. One red paperclip, a dream, and a resume to write. And bills to pay. Oh, and a very patient girlfriend who was paying the rent while he was once again “between jobs.” Kyle wanted to be able to provide for himself and his girlfriend, Dominique. He wanted to own his own home. He wanted something bigger than a paperclip. So he put an ad on Craigslist, the popular classifieds website, with the intention of trading that paperclip for something better. A girl in Vancouver offered him a fish pen in exchange for his paperclip. He traded the fish pen for a doorknob and the doorknob for a camping stove. Before long he had traded the camping stove for a generator for a neon sign. Not long after that, avid snow-globe collector and television star Corbin Bernsen and the small Canadian town of Kipling were involved, and Kyle was on to bigger and better things. 

My thoughts:
Let's not beat around the bush. In 14 trades, and one year, Kyle gets the house (and the girl). I knew that from the beginning because I've already heard the story. However, what makes the book worth reading on a Saturday afternoon when you should be doing more important things like paying bills, cleaning the house, or washing the windows is not the outcome, but the process he took to get to the end.

While trying to get things ready for an upcoming garage sale, I found myself on a roll, all fears of being married to a hoarder pushed aside, when I came across this book. I bought it for my son as a Christmas book. It was something to inspire him as he got ready for his senior year, but since I already knew the outcome, I wasn't interested in reading it. Still, I flipped through it looking for any loose note or money or receipt used as a bookmark when I saw the pictures and obvious title headings (the title heading has to do with his next trade). Being middle school minded, I am a sucker for obvious title headings and pictures, especially pictures where the author always looks like a goofball. What's more, even though he is an adult, his mother still cuts his hair. Nice.

The thrill of the trade kept me reading even though the author's voice was a bit too cornball for me in the beginning. I don't know if his voice changes as an author later on, or I just ignored it, but I wanted to read on and only stopped to pace around and talk to my family when the climax of the "bad trade" happened.  But the trade is not the point, as he so clearly points out, and my finishing the book in one afternoon was not about the trades, but about the process. By insisting on doing trades in person, the author takes us along and invites us not only into his life, but into the very interesting lives of those people who actually find ways to help him trade up for bigger and better.

The promotional parts, the crazy interviews, the media frenzy - those were all skim worthy. I wasn't interested in that, although, I know that the author needed to be media savvy in order to keep this project going. I think self-promotion using the social media as well as traditional media is what many bloggers dream of, but I am always more interested in the human story and this book has many interesting human stories.

In the end, as I go back to gathering "treasures" from my "junks," this book reminds me that an item is only worth whatever somebody is willing to give you for it, but if you don't get in there and trade away your "one red paperclip," then nothing is going to happen except that you still have "one red paperclip." I will try to convince my husband of that as I try to get him to see that the memories will still be there even if the object is not.

Now if only I could trade my 2003 red 4-wheel drive Toyota Sequoia for two smaller cars (preferably one truck and one sedan - both in excellent running condition).

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