I have to heartily thank whatever publishing gods saw fit to release Let’s Pretend This Never Happened last Tuesday, because after all of that sexy Spanish melodrama (not to mention all the teen girls in The Shadow of the Wind who get pregnant from doing it just one time without protection…Public Service Announcement kids – it just takes the once, and then there’s a ninety percent chance you’ll end up not just pregnant, but dead!)
Seriously, although it was a wonderful book, it was also kind of a downer, and I knew that Jenny Lawson (or as she’s better known on the interwebs, The Bloggess) would be the perfect antidote…well, her book and a trip to the coast to avoid the 90 degree temperatures that don’t belong in our non-air conditioned house in April…
If you aren’t familiar with Jenny, you should go check out her site, (but, you know, only if you have a well-developed sense of humor). I write about a lot of serious books here, and when I’m not talking about serious books, I’m covering zombie apocalypse romance type stories, and this is not either of those. Jenny Lawson is amazing, but not for the weak of heart or the humor deficient.
Because I’ve been following her blog for several years, reading her memoir was more like having a conversation with an old friend than it was a typical literary experience. I already knew about her husband Victor (although not the whole story behind their very sweet courtship) and her daughter Hailey (a deeply cherished child who was born after several emotionally destructive miscarriages). I knew about Lawson’s giant metal chicken Beyonce, and her collection of ethically taxidermied animals, but I hadn’t heard the story about her visit to Napa where she learned that not all women are as awful as the girls she grew up with.
The Bloggess is an (unfairly) funny woman. She even has a quote from Neil Gaiman on the back of her book saying so, and you know I would rather walk over hot coals than disrespect anything that man says, but the thing I love most about her is not how much she makes me laugh. It’s how she’s willing to talk about her crippling panic attacks. Her depression. Her rheumatoid arthritis. She uses her blog as a platform – a hilarious and often outrageous one – to talk about issues that are terrifying, that make people feel as though they are completely alone, and worse, that make them feel that they don’t deserve to be a part of a larger community of kindred spirits.
For those of us who are oddly at ease allowing parts of our personal lives to spill out into the ether, we feel fortunate that people like Jenny have ripped open the box of shame and said, “No. I refuse to give in. I refuse to let this be my whole life. I refuse to feel humiliated by a part of me that is beyond my control.” That, to me, is hope in its most exhilarating form. It’s not easy to laugh in the face of crippling physical and emotional pain. It’s harder still to expose your stickiest secrets to the internet, a forum where too many people take special pains to use anonymity as an excuse to be cruel. If anything takes more guts than that, it would be writing a no holds barred book about those experiences and then going on a book tour for it even when social anxiety and panic attacks top the list of challenges faced in daily life.
I realize this may not be the book for everybody, but it’s a fantastic read – funny and heartbreaking and occasionally disgusting beyond belief. Lawson continually impresses me with the depth of her bravery, and I’m grateful that I get almost daily “sequels” by following her blog. Her memoir toes the line where life and literature meet; of course, they’re mostly meeting to drink wine slushies and play dress-up with small dead animals, but I, for one, think that’s a pretty excellent place to be.
Again, you can have the pleasure of learning more about the Bloggess here.