Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, by Jenny Lawson or laughing on the outside

Lets Pretend
Recommended for: people who love odd humor and can tolerate swearing
Read February 2013
★  ★  ★   1/2

Oh, Jenny.

There is something so completely…

extravagant  [ik-strav-uh-guhnt]
Part of Speech: adjective
Definition: exceeding the bounds of reason, as actions, demands, opinions, or passions.
Synonyms: absurd, bizarre, crazy, exaggerated, excessive, exorbitant, extreme, fanciful, fantastic, flamboyant, flashy, foolish, grandiose, immoderate, implausible, improvident, imprudent, inordinate, lavish, ludicrous, nonsensical, ornate, outrageous, preposterous, pretentious, prodigal, profligate, reckless, ridiculous, showy, silly, unbalanced, unrestrained.

about this (mostly true) memoir.

That about sums it up.

Notes on the audiobook:

One, it’s rather adorable, as she is the reader. Her attempting to verbally describe pictures and footnotes that would be in the book version cracked me up, leaving me wondering if I should read the written book just to compare.

Two, Jenny shines at non-sequitur chains of ideas, at capturing a conversational tone in her writing, and at appreciating oddity. For me, she is at her best when capturing a ‘funny-but-odd’ situation, segueing into nutty metaphors and bringing it back to the odd situation. A perfect example is her description of a childhood horror that resulted from her father cleaning a deer. She amusingly sets the scene, then tangents off on an aside for “sensitive PETA members” on what “cleaning a deer” means:

“You get some warm water, and some tearless shampoo, and you gently massage the deer. Lather, rinse, but don’t repeat even though the bottle says to, because that’s just a ploy to sell more shampoo, blow dry on low heat and hot-glue a bow on his forehead. Send him back into the woods to meet a nice Jewish doe. Go to the next chapter.”

She then shares what really cleaning a deer means for “curious, non-judgmental readers”–and it apparently involves the “poop rope,” the first time I’ve been privileged to hear that “French” expression despite having a deer hunter father as well. Once that is finished she returns to the truly horrible experience of running into the hanging carcass. And throwing up. And her father’s version of the “Grizzly Adams five-second rule.”

Likewise, “bonus” chapter titled “Balls” was a delight, and perfectly captures oddball humor and the even odder people around her. She balances the laughs created by her naivate, the ridiculous extrapolation of a situation (think tongue-on-ice and short-shorts) and compassionate (their vengeful Sno-cone fund-raiser).

Two-point-five:: It doesn’t happen often, but occasionally there are sound effects accompanying the audio. The knife sharpening in the deer section was a sinister touch.
Two-point-seven-five: She sings the chapter titles. It is truly an ear-cringing experience.

Three, I suggest numerous listening/reading breaks. She is overwhelming, particularly in the section of the book that deals with her relationships. Funny as hell, but listen too long and I run the risk of diminishing returns from sheer exhaustion.

Four–and this may be just me–but I found myself melancholic at times, particularly the chapter about the women bloggers’ weekend, the section on her ‘detoxification by laxatives,’ the post-it exchanges with Victor, and the dog burial. Mental illness runs through the book and is rarely discussed openly, except in the chapter that she talks about her social anxiety, general anxiety disorder and panic attacks. There’s a whole lot of sadness left out of a story about a miscarriage, and from her abridged explanation, a whole lot of crazy.

The crazy is almost always played for laughs, and while I get smiling through the pain, appreciating uniqueness, holding one’s head high, making lemonade, sharing the pain, etc., etc., I just don’t know. It was a thin line that sometimes felt closer to laughing at someone with cancer than with them. (No, no one in the book had cancer. That’s just my metaphorical way of saying laughing at mental illness’ oddities is a lot like laughing at someone struggling with cancer. It can be all-consuming, can come endowed with lots of symptom baggage and can be a constant struggle. And they probably had about as much choice in the matter. So even if they play the clumps of hair falling out for laughs–and many people do–it still represents a whole lot of hurt behind the smile. And, now that I think about it, there is that same sense of trying to conceal the horror as I watch it happen).

Five, for her sake and the sake of the millions living with mental health issues–because don’t fool yourself, most people have a fissure that just takes the right experience to break it open–I hope she claims some political power and doesn’t just settle for laughs.

A wavering three-and-a-half stars.

About thebookgator

avid reader and Goodreads reviewer looking for a home.
This entry was posted in Autobiography, Book reviews, Non-fiction and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, by Jenny Lawson or laughing on the outside

  1. Busty Book Bimbo says:

    Carol wrote: “Funny as hell, but listen too long and I run the risk of diminishing returns from sheer exhaustion.”

    Yes, reading is the same. You need to take breaks. She’s a sweetheart, but holy moses, her husband has got to be a saint!! I think I would have her buried in the backyard by now, under the rose bushes.

  2. Pingback: Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh | book reviews forevermore

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