Thursday, January 16, 2014

Book Review: Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

Let's Pretend This Never Happened
Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess)
Published: 2012
Memoir, humor

Have you read The Bloggess blog? I was sent a link to one of her posts several years ago by my sister-in-law, about how Lawson found a five-foot metal chicken statue she just had to buy from a random store and the subsquent shenanigans with her husband over the purchase. I think the statue ended up living on the porch. The best way I can describe her blog is a lifestyle and humor, with frequent musings on taxidermy and rural Texas. The blog makes more sense after reading the book.

The Bloggess' book is part memoir, part quasi-blog smooshed together. The author is very self-referential, admitting several times throughout that the book lacks much structure and tends to ramble because that's how she is, and she owns that this is reflective of her generalized anxiety disorder. She is open about her struggles with mental illness, though she mostly conveys it through humor. A few times the book steps into more heartfelt moments, which take the book beyond surface-level humor.

The writing is at its best when the author stops waving attention to how weird and crazy and out-of-the-norm she is. When she lets her experiences speak for themselves, they are funniest and most powerful. Early on in the chapters about her childhood in rural west Texas, she recalls when her father tells she and her sister to look up movie times, to write them all out with a description of each and a case for which movie they should see. When the girls return to Dad, he says, "Now who has money?" Clearly, neither girl has any since they are poor and never have spending money of their own. Dad explains they won't be going to a movie, but "Wasn't it fun when you thought you might?" It's both heartbreaking and a little infuriating, but the way Lawson recalls it is not to shame her father. She is somewhat wistful over the encounter, realizing he was doing what he could given their limitations, and his own as a parent. While he is frequently misguided about many things (raising wild turkeys who bite at the girls, bringing home live snakes and hurt animals), his intentions are never cruel. All the taxidermy stuff goes back to her childhood as her dad had a fondness for turning roadkill into art.

The chapter on her Human Resources work experience is pretty great, and there are some touching and hilarious stories about her family, including her very patient but not always temperate husband Victor (who is frequently noted on the blog). This book is a bit hit-or-miss, which I think is mostly due to a shaky transition from blog writing to book. It's *almost* there, but Lawson just needs to get out of her own way.


  1. The book sounds fascinating, although Dad's joke seemed pretty mean-spirited to me. I really like the cover and title. Thanks for the info! :)

    1. I don't think the dad meant it as a joke; he really meant for the girls to have something to get excited about when he could offer them nothing. Misguided, yes.

  2. This sounds pretty interesting. I love the cover and the title. Thanks for sharing. :)

  3. I haven't heard of the blog, but the book sounds interesting. It reminded me a little of The Glass Castle ( I can't remember the author, sorry.)
    The movie story is definitely heart breaking, poor girls, I guess he was trying to make some kind of fun for them.


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