Author: Jenny Lawson

2012, Putnam

Filed Under: Nonfiction, Memoir, Humor

Jenny Lawson is an insane person. It’s a wonder her husband hasn’t drowned himself. Of course, when you’re talking about a memoir by someone who has zero historical impact on the world, insane is good, because insane is entertaining.

Here’s the plot of Lawson’s book: she grew up, went to college, got married, had a kid. She and her husband both work from home in Texas. And occasionally she’ll do weird things like buy a giant metal rooster welded together from oil drums. She’s got a thing for taxidermy (note the dead rat Hamlet on the cover). There aren’t any lessons to be learned from her, or deep insight to be gleaned. Luckily, she is very funny. Lines that seem to come out of left field are plentiful, like this:

I just bought a fifty-year-old Cuban alligator dressed as a pirate.

Lawson’s humor is right up my alley, it’s acerbic and sarcastic. Moreover, lines like that alligator bit in fact play smoothly into the subject at hand. Many of the episodes described in this book are awkward situations she bumbles or word-vomits her way into due to severe social anxiety. She does an excellent job of laying out her weird logic as she retells it, making each vignette compelling and entertaining.

On more than one occasion my panicked rumblings were so horrific that everyone was rendered speechless, and the silence got more and more palpable, and in desperation I just blurted out my credit card number and ran to the bathroom. I did this both because I hoped yelling random numbers would make baffled spectators suspect that I must be one of those eccentric mathematical geniuses who is just too brilliant for them to understand, and also because I felt a bit guilty for making them have to listen to the whole “I may or may not swallow needles” story, and if they wanted to charge their wasted time to my credit card then they now had that option.

I found this book pretty hilarious from start to finish, even if the earlier chapters outshine the balance of the book. The story of Stanley the Magic Squirrel in the third chapter, which recounts a time as a young girl when her taxidermist father woke up Lawson and her sister with a talking squirrel in a cracker box, is never exceeded. (The squirrel turned out to be a piece of roadkill her dad rigged into a grotesque puppet.)

As the memoir goes on, topic matter gets a bit more serious–miscarriages for one–but the strength of Lawson’s storytelling keeps the mood in check. If you like the sort of nonfiction that David Sedaris is known for, or enjoy things like The Moth, you’ll find this book fits in nicely with your preferences. Similarly if you’ve ever felt yourself feeling like an outsider in what ought to be fairly commonplace situations, Lawson’s perspective will certainly make you smile.

Similar Reads: Open-Eyed Sneeze (Martin), Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim (Sedaris), Running with Scissors (Burroughs)