Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Happy Accidents, by Jane Lynch

For me, it's all about the connection. I thrive on it. I want to get to know others -- and not in a small talky way. Also, I'm a supreme busybody. I want to know everything about everybody, and not only do I not mind reciprocating, I want to. My dear friend and fellow MFAer Nancy Hill became enamored with the work of poet Simon Armitage and, two weeks back when Armitage crossed the pond to spend a few days with us at Butler, Nancy's open and generous nature shined bright. Connection? Between Hill and Armitage I felt as if I'd won the lottery.
First, Nancy kindly invited me to join her and Simon for lunch after she picked him up at the airport. After his evening reading, Nancy invited me to join her, her genial husband, John, and Armitage for a few pints. Not only did that provide me an opportunity to get to know the poet Armitage, but a bit about the man behind the poet.
This semester I'm lucky to be in Andy Levy's (the director of Butler's MFA program), Visiting Writers class. Andy's a treasure trove of literary wisdom, and he recently presented us with this gem: Novels teach us how to read them, and that as this occurs, we learn a different way to see the world. The best writing of any type serves to connect us to the world through a lens different than the one through which we normally view. When memoirs accomplish this it's magical.
I had hoped "Happy Accidents" would do all this: connect me with an intriguing actress, and give me a glimpse of an experience unlike my own. Indeed, Lynch's celeb-oir is satisfying as a fun, entertaining romp. Ultimately, though, it's the equivalent of superficial small talk. It's a light read -- in its own way refreshing, yet non-nourishing, like an ice cold glass of Kool Aid on a ninety degree day.
Lynch takes the reader through her angsty childhood, one in which she couldn't shake a sense of otherness. And although it was a nice surprise to find that she doesn't fall into the easy trap of parent blaming, she doesn't show us what it was like to feel so 'other,' of why she felt this way. Lynch's path to becoming a well-known actress has been unique. She didn't hit her stride and find fame until later in life, and she had me with this part of her story.
To her credit, Lynch doesn't hold back about her personal life. Or does she? She writes about her years of therapy, years of not being able to get along with others, and a seemingly asexual life. She writes that she finally was able to admit what those around her knew long ago, that she is a lesbian. And yet she doesn't pull us close and show us the emotion that comes with this self-isolating behavior, or how her coming out impacted her life.
Like Glee, the show that presented Lynch with the character of Sue Sylvester, that ushered in her breakout fame, Happy Accidents is heartfelt and sentimental, yet at its foundation is constructed of superficial platitudes.

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