Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir), by Jenny Lawson
I lost a good hour to two of sleep in order to finish this book in a timely fashion. Was it worth the lost sleep? As I sit here typing out this review with a bit of a headache, I think it was. To be sure, this is not the best memoir I have ever read, and I do not think that I would agree with a lot of the author’s opinions, but I could clearly relate to the author and there were some striking insights that this work provided based on some core similarities that exist between us. For example, I could relate painfully well to the author’s high degree of anxiety, possibly to the point of being crippling, as well as to the way that she notes that many bloggers blog precisely because they are awkward and uncomfortable people who feel it necessary to communicate with the world through a less direct means than painful and unpleasant personal context. There were definitely some aspects of this book and the author’s approach, including the way that so many of her stories were so harrowing and told in such a breathless and exaggerated fashion.
This memoir of about 300 pages is told through entertaining chapters that move along in a generally chronological fashion and have a lot of swearing and references to awkward and unpleasant experiences. The author spends a lot of time talking about her childhood, about her unconventional parents (especially her father, a professional taxidermist), about her hatred of high school and her goth phase as a teenager, and her early marriage to someone she considered to be somewhat ill-suited with her, although they remain married as of the time this book was released more than fifteen years later. There are stories about the horrors of being in HR given the lack of ability one has to do anything productive and the generally low quality of people that are often looking for work and are even unemployable for one reason or another. The author movingly discusses how she was able to bond with some fellow female bloggers and overcome some prejudices she had about other women as a result of having grown up an outcast in Texas, where her sister was a cheerleader and she ended up impregnating a cow, which is one of the more awkward high school stories one can imagine. If you like awkward stories about lovingly dysfunctional people, this book has a lot to offer.
What sort of target audience is this book aimed at? Clearly there is a market for humorous memoirs, and it is easy to appreciate that one would rather laugh than cry, and that influences what one reads as well as what one writes. I would have preferred this memoir have less irritating pseudoconversations between the author and the editor and less exaggeration, but sometimes people believe they have to take everything to an extreme in order to make it funny. I think there is a great deal of humor, and poignancy, in understated moments, but one will find few understated moments here. While this is not the ideal sort of memoir I would read, it did make me smile and laugh a few times, and it did a good job at being just fictional enough to avoid being libelous. It is likely that some members of the author’s family were not exactly happy about the way that the author went about writing about her life, but hopefully they have gotten over it by now. There is clearly a market for the sort of humorous tell-most story that this author wrote, although I am deeply curious about what it is that made her so anxious. A story like this one prompts further investigation into the shadows of the author’s psyche.