Thursday, February 28, 2013

Review: LET'S PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED by Jenny Lawson

Image from Wikipedia
This year, in an effort to better myself, I'm trying to read more books by women, by people of color, and more nonfiction titles.  I just finished reading a political analysis book that was very dire and very informative but not much fun to read in that it made me sad deep in the black vacuous void where my heart used to be before I traded it for Coke Zero and sugar free sweet tea.  I needed something to lighten the mood.

I first heard of Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess) through the Geek and Sundry hangout on Google+/YouTube.  She was very funny and charming, and so I wound up following her on Twitter.  When she tweeted that her book was on sale on the Nook, I bought it, but I have a tendency to buy books and say that I'll get to it later.  I had to finish said political analysis book first.  Once that was done, though, man, I needed something to cheer me up.  This book was exactly that.

Have you ever been dragged to a party by one of your outgoing friends under the insistence that it'll be fun, but when you get there, everyone is busy talking to people they already know, and you don't want to be rude and barge in on their conversations, and they're talking about stuff that you don't know anything about anyway.  And you think maybe you could talk about this funny YouTube video that you saw or maybe discuss this documentary about healthcare that you just watched, but you don't think anyone wants to talk about that.  Then, when you do start talking to someone, they start talking about movies, and you really like movies, so you begin talking about your strong feelings about the gender representation in movies and about how the writers did a good job with characterization of most of the characters, but there were a few places they could have spent more time on the supporting character to make his death have more impact later.  Then the other person's eyes start glazing over and you can tell they stopped caring and they were only making small talk, but you can't stop babbling.  You know you're making things worse, and they're looking increasingly bored/uncomfortable, so you eventually pretend you see someone you know across the room and make an excuse to get away and go hide in the bathroom for a while until you've calmed down?

Now imagine that, but instead of movies, you begin rambling about the time that your dad brought a bloody half of a squirrel in and used it as a puppet to wake you up, or the time you got stabbed in the face by a serial killer, or the time you took too many laxatives and spent your afternoon locked in the bathroom with diarrhea and terrified that a rapist was trying to get you.

That's the gist of Jenny Lawson's book, Let's Pretend This Never Happened.  She openly admits that she has OCD, general anxiety disorder, and a few other medical problems that complicate her life, but she describes it in such a way that makes the book incredibly entertaining, and highlights how much of a bad ass she is to be able to deal with all of that and still find humor in all of these situations.

I cannot express effectively how funny this book is.  There are a few times where she describes things and then says that she was just exaggerating--like the post-it war she has with her husband--but then follows it up with an even more unbelievable story that is totally true--like the bloody squirrel puppet.

There were a lot of moments where I found myself nodding along in understanding.  I can relate to a lot of the social anxieties and worries.  I deal with depression a lot--it was especially bad in college--and I'm still incredibly socially awkward, so her discomfort at gatherings with her friends totally hits home for me.

This book isn't just funny, however.  She writes about several very personal, very sad moments in the book.  The humor in the book highlights these moments and makes them even more heart-wrenchingly sad and touching.  The closest thing I can compare it to is...this book is like the movie Up.  

You know how everyone talks about the first 15 minutes of the movie and how incredibly sad it is?  But then the movie gets all silly and there are dogs flying airplanes and talking with funny voices and stuff?  But the movie that keeps calling back to the beginning of the movie, creating little poignant moments in all the silly?  Well, Jenny Lawson sort of does that.  This book has some truly, beautiful and sad moments, but those work hand in hand and complement the ridiculous, silly moments very well.

The book's subtitle is "A Mostly True Memoir."  Don't think she lies to make things more ridiculous.  She's stated that the only things that have been changed have been some names, combining a few events to make the stories easier to tell, and occasionally exaggerating (and then admitting she's exaggerating and explaining what really happened).  And if you don't believe her?  She's included pictures of a lot of these things.

I cannot recommend this book enough.  Go buy it.  You will laugh your ass off over and over and over again.  You'll reread it.  I guarantee it.  I plan to.