Monday, August 13, 2012

Let's Pretend This Never Happened, by Jenny Lawson

Very few things make me laugh out loud. My family accuses me of having no sense of humor. That may be true, but I prefer to think of myself as discriminating. Last semester my classmate, Ashley, clued me in on Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess. "Susan, you MUST read her blog. And she's coming out with a memoir!" I gave Ashley my head tilt of agreement, and said "Uh-huh," but even as those syllables came out of my mouth, I was thinking Ashley's "super-funny" could very well be my "meh."

And that's why I almost hate to admit this, but today, while I listened to the audiotape of LPTNH, I heard a noise I almost didn't recognize. It took me a second or two for it to sink in. It was me, laughing.

In a cyber-world where it seems as though everyone blogs, Lawson has done something pretty remarkable. She parlayed her achievements as a blogger into a successful vault into the literary zeitgeist. What are the odds?

Lawson grew up in a small town in Texas, the daughter of a taxidermist who often brought his work home. Lawson writes about the strange episodes of her childhood, most of which involve the feral animals -- some alive, some dead -- her father brought into their home. Writing about her adult life, Lawson fesses up to struggling with a disease that left her ability to sustain a pregnancy questionable, a whooping anxiety disorder and rheumatoid arthritis. She manages to transform her tragedy and suffering with humor and a keen eye for ironic detail. No, dead babies are not funny, but Lawson, caught in a situation that would drive anyone mad, holds our hands and takes us to a place where we can laugh at the sheer absurdity of her situation.

Sure, read the book. But if you can, listen to the audiobook, which Lawson reads herself. Her delivery is spot-on, pee-in-your-pants funny. But don't fool yourself into thinking you can get away with listening while your kids are around. Lawson loves profanity, and is particularly fond of tossing out the F-bomb. Occasionally I thought Lawson went a little too far, that the humor, instead of clever, became silly. For instance, at the end of the audiotape she talks about how the word "vagina" is funny, and in this riff she repeats the word at least 25 times. Enough already. But pushing aside a few minor complaints, I think Jenny Lawson is amazing and smart and twisted and really, really funny. LPTNH is witty and tender and profane. And hysterical, just like Ashley said.

P.S. Lawson's success coming on the heels of her blog made me remember an interview with Anne Lamott, one of my all-time fave authors, from a few years back. In this interview, which I think appeared in Salon, she opined that she saw no purpose in blogging, and that she wants to write books. This, despite my undying love and admiration for Lamott, pissed me off. (Sorry, I'm getting all Jenny Lawson-cursey on you, aren't I?) I thought Lamott's remark was myopic, especially for someone who writes heartfelt, underdog memoir. Recently, though, through her Facebook fan page, Lamott has started posting kick-ass mini-essays (there I go again with the cursing), blog-style. Which just goes to show you, don't underestimate the power of words, even if they appear on the screen instead of the page.

Which reminds me, it's about time I reviewed Lamott's new book.

Until then,


  1. AMEN to the whole blogging thing. It's keeping me sane. So glad Blogess got you laughing. I agree, she's laugh-out-loud funny!

  2. Indeed. And you were born to be a blogger. Good your vocation caught up to you. Always loved your writing, whether those funny holiday cards or the new blog. Kol Hakavod, and thanks for the note!