Polyphonist’s #CBR5 Review #39: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson

lets-pretend-this-never-happenedThis review is bittersweet for me. Some have said that they like hearing the back story about how one came to read a particular book, so here goes. This book is the last gift my ex-husband and ex-wife ever gave me. We were in a poly marriage where I was legally married to him for four out of the close to thirteen years he and I were together. We were with our wife for the latter ten years of those thirteen and had a private, (non legally binding) wedding ceremony (yes. it was a wedding ceremony. I don’t care who the hell disagrees with me) for the three of us. They essentially left me for each other. Our relationship had been having trouble for years and it was and is clear that they were much better suited for each other than the three of us were for each other. There were some very difficult times throughout our relationship, but we had all said that we wanted to stay friends after the separation and divorce last year. And for the most part, we tried. Last Christmas, I bought and sent them Christmas presents and sent them out and they also sent me Christmas presents, this book being one of them. Let’s review the title again, shall we? Let’s Pretend This Never Happened. Some would consider it cruel, but I unwrapped it and laughed. It was exactly the dark humor we all shared. When something was painful, laughing at it as soon as possible made everything better. And it was on my wishlist, so it’s not that it just came out of left field. All things considered, it was an incredibly thoughtful gift on many levels…that took me nearly a year to read, though, both because I had a hard time with the origin of the book and if you’ve never read Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess), let’s just say she has both a very distinctive voice and opinions that some people love and some hate (another fun fact: my ex-husband is in the latter camp).

So that’s how it came to be mine. And a few weeks ago, I finally was in a place where I could appreciate her unapologetically irreverent and brash awesomeness. Holy hell, I’m so glad I did! From the amusing and slightly horrified recounting of various family members’ body parts stuck up inside both living and dead animals (her dad’s a taxidermist…which only partially explains it) to the endearing (yet kinda crazy…in the best possible way) portrait of her marriage and family, this book was unlike any I’d ever read. (Save for Freak Show by James St. James…and that’s not to say it was like that, but that’s the only other book I’ve ever read that was wholly unlike any other. And actually, the Bloggess and the narrator of Freak Show do have a similar hyperbolic voice on occasion…but that’s where the similarities end between a woman raised in Texas with an offbeat taxidermy-laden childhood and a teenage drag queen trying to navigate the world of a private high school in Florida end.)

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened starts with Lawson talking about she was a three year old arsonist (kinda) and the next chapter highlights exactly how her childhood is probably way different than most people’s:

1. Most people have never stood inside a dead animal.
2. Most people don’t have poisonous tap water in their house.
3. Most people have running water.
4. Most people don’t have a cistern or even know what a cistern is.
5. Most people don’t have live raccoons in the house.

I can definitely say that I fall into the category of “most people” in all five instances and the story behind all of them are awesome. Of course, I didn’t have to live it…I think the only story in the book that I have actually lived through was the debate over whether Jesus is a zombie or not. Well, it wasn’t much of a debate. To the best of my memory, my exes agreed that Jesus is definitely a zombie.

The most hysterical story in the book is called “And That’s Why You Should Learn To Pick Your Battles” and starts with an argument between Lawson and her husband about not buying new bath towels. This, of course, led to her buying a six foot metal chicken named Beyonce. True story. Also a true story: that story was the first real introduction I had to The Bloggess, from her blog, before the book came out. So once, when driving through Kentucky last year, my ex-girlfriend and I came across a distillery and winery that also sold giant metal chickens. I remember screaming “Beyonce!” and then laughing hysterically until I cried. We stopped and had apple pie moonshine samples and a very good time. If I could’ve afforded a Beyonce of my very own, I totally would’ve. It was not in the cards (or my wallet, however.)

On the flip side, one of the sweetest and my favorite parts of the book, was when she and her husband went back to her childhood home for a visit. She was feeling nostalgic for the past:

I just wanted to go back to my life from my childhood, just to visit it, and to touch it, and to convince myself that yes, it had been real. Victor could tell I was upset, but I couldn’t find a way to describe it without sounding ridiculous. ”It’s nothing,” I said. ”It’s just that…Have you ever been homesick for someplace that doesn’t actually exist anymore? Someplace that exists only in your mind?”

He rocked with me on the front porch in silence, not knowing how to answer, and eventually he put his arm around me and told me everything would be alright, and then he went inside to get some sleep. He found me the next morning, still outside in the same rocking chair, and stared at me worriedly. He asked me gently, “Are you gonna be ready to go home this morning?”

I rocked in silence, and realized for the first time that “home” wasn’t this place anymore. It was where Victor was. It was both a terrifying and an enlightening realization, and I took a deep breath and thought carefully before answering.

“Yes. I’m ready to go home.”

It’s weird. Sometimes I get homesick for the family that I…we’d spent so long creating. But that’s not my home anymore. I have a new home in my new husband and they have a new home in each other. I miss them a lot, but they’ve made it clear that they don’t want to be friends, so I can’t make them. Which means I doubt I’ll be getting any other awesomely macabre gifts from them but I’m incredibly grateful for all the gifts I’ve been given, such as this fantastic book.

Mrs Smith Reads Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson, #CBR5, Review #18

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MAKE ME SOME BASKETTI!

I really should have written this review as soon as I finished the book, which was about two weeks ago. I laughed, out loud, several times; mostly in bed, at night, just as my husband was falling asleep. I did read one passage to him, and he laughed too. He remarked that Jenny Lawson sounds exactly like the type of writer who could make me laugh out loud, in bed, at night, and wake up my husband. She is.

Let’s Pretend this Never Happened is a pretty funny and mostly true story of Jenny Lawson’s completely normal and uneventful childhood. Almost none of her childhood was normal and her agent and editor must have thought it was pretty eventful too, since—well, they published her book. Lots of people have read it, and almost everybody loves it. It is quite funny, which I already stated above.

Lawson (AKA The Bloggess) is pretty inspirational to me. I know most days when I’m feeling really miserable about how out of control my life is, I remember that lots of some people with challenging and unfortunate life experiences go on to write inspiring and very well received books about how they navigated adversity with pluck and a sense of humor. And then I feel better.

Lollygagger’s #CBR5 Review #15: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

This book is great, y’all.

Sorry. I’ve been known to say ‘y’all’ on occasion (who knows why – I grew up on the west coast), and after listening to Ms. Lawson read her hilarious, sweet and bizarre memoir, I’ve incorporated it into my vocabulary once again. I can’t help it.

You might be familiar with Jenny Lawson but not know it. She is better known as The Bloggess, and she is a brilliant writer. She’s open, a fantastic storyteller, and able to make me laugh out loud, tear up, cringe, and feel nostalgic for my own (pretty different from her) childhood. Often in the same chapter.

Lawson grew up poor in West Texas. Like, bread sack shoes poor. Her father was a taxidermist and would do things like stick his hand up a dead squirrel and treat it like a puppet, or bring baby bobcats into the home to hang out. While the subtitle of the book says the memoir is “mostly” true, the reality is that most any chapter struck me as both completely ridiculous and totally plausible. Do I believe that she once had her arm up a cow’s vagina during animal husbandry class? Yes. Do I believe that they had raccoons as pets for a while? Yes.

The stories follow Lawson from childhood through adulthood, into married life. She is a mother, although only a couple of her stories deal directly with her in that role, and one of them is a doozy. In that chapter she talks in great detail about her miscarriages and attempts at having a child. I cannot imagine how devastating that was, but Lawson has such a tremendous way with words that I felt like I was hearing a friend describe it. It had me tearing up and wanting to give her and her husband a big hug.

One thing I really appreciated about this book is that there is a sensitivity that runs throughout it. The stories are mostly hilarious and guffaw-inducing, but there’s a rawness and reality behind them. It is vulnerability and self-reflection and strength all wrapped up together.

A couple of things to keep in mind before you run out to buy the paperback version (on the NY Times bestseller list now! First: There is a ton of cursing in this book. I don’t subscribe to the idea that cursing is offensive or lazy writing. I think the concept of someone saying ‘heck’ when their personality and feelings want them to say ‘fuck’ is ridiculous, unless you’re in church or possibly at work. If the author is thinking ‘fuck’, she should write it down. Clearly, Lawson is often thinking ‘fuck.’ And it works. It makes sense, it isn’t shocking, and it’s a hell of a lot less jarring than someone reacting to something utterly absurd with ‘dagnabbit’ instead of ‘holy shit.’

Second: PLEASE buy the audio version of this book. Lawson has a fantastic voice and amazing comic timing. Her delivery of the stories makes them all the funnier. The audio book also has the bonus chapter that is found in the paperback version, plus a good 10 minutes at the very end which is just her in the sound booth, offering up some fantastic ideas. And saying ‘vagina’ a lot.

This book is staying on my phone for multiple re-listenings, and it is going to get five stars, because it is awesome.

alwaysanswerb’s #CBR5 Review 09: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

200px-Let's_Pretend_This_Never_HappenedSo we don’t need to recap this one, right? Since this book has essentially become destined to be reviewed at least once a week? You reap what you sow, cannonballers! If everyone is going to talk about how great it is, the rest of us are going to want to read it!

Anyway, there can’t be much left to say about either the content or the quality of the book. It’s definitely funny, but there is a noticeably more raw quality to the humor and writing that I think is indicative of The Bloggess’ background (blogging, obviously, as opposed to “novelist.”) The humor here is pretty organic, derived from humorous situations, rather than constructed “jokes.” But as we all know, you still need the right wit and timing to re-tell a funny story and have it still be funny, as opposed to “I guess you had to be there,” so Lawson definitely succeeds on that front. You do get a lot of “And then I punched the dog in the face. Just kidding, that didn’t happen. But what actually happened is even worse. I bet you’re getting nervous, but that’s okay, because getting nervous burns calories. So really, you should be thanking me.” Personally, I respond really well to that in blogs, but it felt admittedly weird to be reading it in a hardbound book. I know that makes no sense, but it’s the truth. And since I still did laugh and grow really fond of everyone in the memoir, I’m not going to actually “penalize” the book for my own cognitive dissonance.

So, anyway, recommended, yadda yadda, in case you were waiting for my final say.

llp’s #CBR V Review 1: Let’s Pretend this Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

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I read this book with great anticipation, and was generally not disappointed. I was already familiar with a few of the stories as a long time reader of Lawson’s blog, but she is just so funny and a wee bit odd – this book brought me a lot of joy.

Badkittyuno’s #CBR5 Review #06: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

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I know I’m about the last person in the world to read this book, but in case I’m not–go read it! I almost never buy hardcover books (I’m cheap, plus they don’t fit in my purse), but my sister got a copy for Christmas so I borrowed it. It was a quick read (quicker if I could have stopped reading portions aloud to my husband) and hysterical.
     Let’s Pretend This Never Happened chronicles blogger Jenny Lawson’s upbringing in rural Texas, where her father (barely) supported the family with his in-home taxidermy business, through high school (awkwardness) to her current life with her husband (poor Victor) and daughter on a large piece of land in…rural Texas.
Lawson’s stories are incredibly funny, and I loved her writing style. Some of the chapters are more serious, specifically those dealing with mental illness, but she writes even these with warmth and humor. If you, like me, are too cheap to buy brand-new hardcover books, read the “Stanley the Magical, Talking Squirrel” chapter in a bookstore. Then you will have no choice but to buy it to read the rest.

SJfromSJ’s #CBR5 Review #1: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson

ImageAh, The Bloggess. As someone who had been regularly reading her blog but kind of late to that game and not interested in the daunting task of going back to the beginning and catching up, I was extremely excited when this book came out (and subsequently super bummed that I was doing something job-related every time she was stumping the book in New Jersey). I had read many of her present-day antics but had little idea about her roots and why she was the way she was.

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