This is a book review. It’s going to be a hard one for me because I desperately wanted to love this book and I didn’t. I liked it? I didn’t love it. This makes me sad because I’ve been a fairly consistent Bloggess reader for a long time now. I wanted to shout to the rooftops how this is the best thing that ever bested and I don’t do that. So this is my sad face.
I’m not sure if my discontent stems from Lawson’s writing or a problem with how this book was (or was not) edited. The book starts really strong. Lawson has a fluid narrative through the first quarter or so of the memoir that takes you back to her formative years. She relays in hysterical detail the bizarre, quasi-dysfunctional circumstances that rounded out her childhood. It’s smooth and easy to read and flat-out funny. Except for the winks at the camera, that is. There are four thousand unnecessary footnotes that are probably supposed to be funny but I found more annoying than not. It’s hard to do a start and stop with a book like this. Look up, look down, repeat. My brain doesn’t want to be torn from its reverie when I’m really into it. Those footnotes did that.
The story itself also took a turn when she jumps to her teen years. It’s like the author just doesn’t want to talk about it as much so she glosses over it. It was jolting in a way; she was so open about her beginnings and there was so much flesh on those bones that when she holds back later on, it reads weird. I figured this was more a bump in the road than anything major because she goes straight into meeting her husband Victor afterward and that was well done. But once we get insight into how she and Victor became she and Victor, the book just sort of went . . . well. Spastic.
For starters, Lawson is very open about her mental illness (which I totally appreciate). Unfortunately, when she talks about it, it’s done in such an over-the-top way that I feel uncomfortable. Like, she makes me feel like a bad person for recoiling from how she makes terribly awkward social situations horrific in a matter of minutes. I understand she can’t help a facet of the panic, but when it’s written like this, it makes me stare at the page like it’s got leprosy. I think to myself, “Jesus Christ, I’d kill her if she did that.” As I’m a person who’s been down the mental illness road and who has friends that struggle with it, I like to think I’m pretty understanding in general. Being made to feel like a bad person because all I can think is, “Holy shit, I want to murder her right now” is disconcerting. I didn’t like that. It made me unhappy.
Also, once Victor is in the picture and she starts talking about her marriage, the smoothness of the early storytelling is pretty much gone. She had a nice chronology to start but at some point the book adopts an essay format. From a memoir to a Sedaris book. This is where I’m wondering if it’s Lawson’s fault or the editor’s because this style shift crossed me as awkward. You’d think they’d pick one and stick with it, but no. And because they didn’t, I was scratching my head like an ape.
The last complaint I have was how a lot of the book read as I’M SHOCKING FOR THE SAKE OF BEING SHOCKING. I have a foul fucking mouth (to prove my point) and I’m not shy about talking about pants parts, poop, or anything else. Lawson loves to say vagina. Like, she says it forty billion times. And while I’m cool with talking about vaginas, this woman borders on obsessive. It’s like she walks into rooms, screams it for the attention it’ll get her, and then snickers about how naughty she is. Over and over again. I don’t know that it’s done for the benefit or entertainment of her readers so much as a, “Tee hee! Look what I can get away with!” And that’s hard to digest. It’s cool you love your vag, Lady. But really, I don’t want to talk about your vag every page. Even if it’s shaped like a Harry Potter lightning bolt.
I guess my overall take is that a little bit of Lawson goes a long way. Short bursts of her for entertainment, yes please. Anything more than that and I’m not sure I’m on board. She’s obviously a gifted humor writer. She’s candid, she made me laugh out loud more than a few times. But I wish this book had been formatted better, for one, and I wish someone had tugged her leash back a bit for two. It felt like her editor was one of those parents at the playground with a kid on the harness. That harness should have been jerked back a few times before said kid went candy-crazy hyper on everyone. Had that happened? The book probably would have sat better with me. As it stands, I’m giving it a 3.5 out of 5 and being sour about it. I really, really wanted to love this and I don’t. And I’m disappointed for it.