Okay. I don't know what the deal is with this Sedaris guy (one book and I don't think I'll ever read another one, unless it's highly recommended), but I haven't found a funny book since I read Allie Brosh's hilarious graphic novel, Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened. I've been looking and looking and found this book by Jenny Lawson and let me tell you, I haven't laughed like this since the Allie experience (and that was a couple of months ago). I was laughing since the introduction. Fresh air, at last.
This is not a book that everybody will love. And she gave us a warning about that right in the beginning of the book:
Did you notice how, like, half of this introduction was a rambling parenthetical? That shit is going to happen all the time. I apologize in advance for that, and also for offending you, because you’re going to get halfway through this book and giggle at non sequiturs about Hitler and abortions and poverty, and you’ll feel superior to all the uptight, easily offended people who need to learn how to take a fucking joke, but then somewhere in here you’ll read one random thing that you’re sensitive about, and everyone else will think it’s hysterical, but you’ll think, “Oh, that is way over the line.” I apologize for that one thing. Honestly, I don’t know what I was thinking.
So, I don't usually swear like that. I don't have the need of constantly writing "the f word" (I don't mind reading it but I can't write it? Such a wuss.) Whatever. What can I say? Reading this book feels like being in Lawson's brain. Have a drink and light a candle because it's like being lost in the woods of The Blair Witch Project movie during a cloudy night. I mean, I'm sure there's hard work in here but it seems like no editing has been done. Like she took every sentence that was dwelling in her weird head and put them all together in this book, and she didn't even check what the hell she was writing about. And I love that. I love her endless babbling. And I don't love it because I tend to do the same thing sometimes, but because her babbling is funny, entertaining and unique. The first chapter is hilarious (Ishmael, gynecologist, American Express? All that in a couple of lines). Two paragraphs and I was already laughing and Charlie Brown was staring at me like he usually does when I'm reading a funny book and he wants to sleep. (I should clarify that Charlie is my cat; I don't see a comic character sitting right next to me. Not yet, at least.)
I sometimes wonder what it would have been like to have a childhood that was not like mine. I have no real frame of reference, but when I question strangers I’ve found that their childhood generally had much less blood in it, and also that strangers seem uncomfortable when you question them about their childhood. But really, what else are you going to talk about in line at the liquor store? Childhood trauma seems like the natural choice, since it’s the reason why most us are in line there to begin with.
Unsettling and still funny.
This "mostly true" memoir has a lot of short chapters and many footnotes that she uses to state whether what she just wrote is true or not, and other humorous gibberish. In one of those notes I found this: "...I always find it’s nice to have short chapters that you can finish quickly so you can feel better about yourself." And for that, I say thank you.
I don't enjoy reading really long books with even longer chapters that make the "Great Wall of China" look like the sidewalk of one ridiculously small block. With the years, I've accepted that I have the attention span of a goldfish. I can be a whole year with a really long book. Amazing writing can make me finish it, at some point. However, if the book is somewhat long but with short chapters, I feel like home. And I feel great after finishing it, like I've accomplished something extraordinary. There's no electronic device in the world that can predict how long it's going to take me to read In Search of Lost Time.
Yet, something is off. And I know Lawson warned me. However, I found a couple of things that left me with an odd aftertaste; a combination of surprise and confusion. I felt so guilty after a shy smile appeared while reading certain passages. It's not a critique, it just felt awkward. Puppets made out of dead animals (daddy was fond of animals, or hunting them), a bit of blood; mental illness, here; drugs, there; etc. So yes, there are controversial themes in here that are still treated with humor and wit, but people can feel offended anyways. And I get that. I wasn't; I just felt weird. For instance, I can't imagine being a kid with someone making a puppet show with a dead animal. No socks in the house? With such a strange childhood she could have founded a new Charles Manson kind of group as a grown-up; instead—and fortunately for the rest of humanity—she wrote a book.
Another thing I wasn't thrilled about: the conversation with her editor through little notes; a tad annoying. And, I know that everybody should embrace their weirdness; it's healthy. But when you repeat that concept over and over, the whole look-I'm-so-crazy-and-awesome-and-went-through-some-crazy-and-disturbing-situations-and-can't-stop-with-the-long-sentence-thing thing; again, a little annoying. But these are tiny details. I still love this book. The parts that made me laugh, really, literally, made me laugh out loud.
Her odd, dark, twisted sense of humor made me laugh, think and question her own stability (everything was simply hilarious, sometimes; too odd and slightly disturbing, other times).
Anyway, she became one of those writers I'd love to have a cup of coffee with. Maybe, tea.
In conclusion, if you recently read about the imperfection of the world and its defective creatures that are doomed to suffer, and you don't exude susceptibility and you don't mind reading a lot of swearing, then read some Lawson and have a cupcake.
Yes. I feel whole again.