Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Just Another Jennsylvania Memoir

I have this little OCD issue -- when I do something, I do it all the way. I mean ALL the way. Therefore, if I start reading an author & I find that I like that author immensely, I will read all of his or her books (see multiple previous posts about Michael Connelly). Even if it kills me to find those books in used book stores, Targets, and Barnes & Nobles across the land -- or Amazon.com.

Why am I rambling on about OCD & reading all of the books written by an author & searching for difficult-to-find titles? Well, I finished Jen Lancaster's second book this week (after stumbling upon it in Target's excellent book department). It has a doozie of a title -- Bright Lights, Big Ass: A Self-Indulgent, Surly, Ex-Sorority Girl's Guide to Why it Often Sucks in the City, or Who are These Idiots and Why Do They All Live Next Door to Me? You really can't find better titles & subtitles than on Lancaster's memoirs. Actually, I'm not sure longer titles exist anywhere in the history of book titles.

In reading my way backwards through Lancaster's works I have learned something: she became a better writer over time. Her last two books were hilarious and genius and entertaining. This second book was funny and insightful and relate-able. But I'm not sure it was quite as good as those that follow. It chronicles Lancaster's life as she finishes her first novel and readies it for publishing. While that is a theme throughout the book, the memoir lacks direction and often reads as a series of essays rather than one continuous story. Complaints though they may be, I still enjoyed the book enough to complete it and even recommend it.

Lancaster still has some of the funniest email inclusions, one-liners, and comedic situations that I've ever read. One particular favorite was the story of her (only) friendly neighbor who has a friend come stay with her to detox. Said neighbor has to leave on an extended business trip, leaving the A&D-treatment-needing houseguest to terrorize the neighborhood with her loan inquiries and drunken (and once naked) escapades. Lancaster is also the master of making you laugh out loud with ordinary moments. Here's an outtake from the book:

"Hold on, let me check with my wife -- Jen, how about a noon appointment with the apartment brokers on Sunday?"
We haven't found anything yet, the rain's coming down harder in the kitchen, Tracy [neighbor's addict houseguest] has yet to be carted off to proper rehab, and I'm starting to feel desperate. "Sounds good."
Five minutes pass as we both quietly work on our laptops. The icon blinks telling me I have mail, so I log on. "Hey, Fletch, I got an email from you."
"Uh-huh, I know."
I open the email and scan it's contents. "Whoa, is this a meeting request to look at apartments on Sunday?"
"Are you trying to be funny?"
"No. I used the Yahoo Scheduler. Now you can add this to your Yahoo Calendar so you can manage your personal affairs."
"But I don't have a Yahoo Calendar an I was sitting ten feet away from you when you made the call. And as eager as I am to move out of Melrose freakin' Place, chances are good I won't forget this appointment."
"Au contraire. You do have a Yahoo Calendar. I set it up for you."
I'm getting agitated. "You're missing the point -- I don't need a Yahoo Calendar to manage my personal affairs, nor do I want to receive meeting requests from you."
He is resolute. "It's very handy."
"That may be, but when you email your wife to schedule an appointment, you set an ugly precedent. What's next, sending me a request to clean the bathroom on the third floor?"
"Now that you mention it..."
"Sweetie, I love you, but I promise that I will smother you in your sleep if you ever assign me a chore via email."
Five more minutes go by while we both quietly work on our computers, and then Fletch asks me, "So, are you going to respond to that request?"
"Fletch? This? Right here? Is exactly why you used to get beat up in junior high school." (p. 272-273)
Lancaster has a blog which you can follow if you're interested in her life & public appearances. She also has a new book coming out sometime soon (I hope!). And yes, although I have found that quality somewhat diminishes as you go back in time with an author, I will be searching for a copy of Lancaster's first book so that my reading will be complete (and so that my OCD will be appeased).

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