Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir)
Honestly, I’m not sure how I didn’t hear about Jenny Lawson sooner. Before writing her New York Times bestselling debut, she garnered a cult following online at thebloggess.com with strange tales about her life with her husband and kids in rural Texas. The publisher says that she’s for fans of Tina Fey and David Sedaris, but I think that comparison is somewhat misleading. I doubt you will ever hear this woman on something like This American Life, which Sedaris appears on regularly. They would need to bleep out too many swear words. Sure, she has a self-deprecating wit that fans of Tina Fey would love; the difference is Lawson goes on tangents about chupacabras and the zombie apocalypse. Hmm… she was right. Spellcheck doesn’t recognize the word chupacabra. I think that’s kind of racist. I mean you don’t see the word werewolf getting a red squiggly line, do you? Lawson tells you up front, that while writing her book spellcheck also refused to recognize the word shiv. It would’ve been impossible for her to write the book without it, because one day she was brutally attacked with one in her own kitchen. She lay for minutes on the cold linoleum oozing blood from her hand. Turns out her pet pug stabbed
2 STUART WILKINSON her in the hand with a chicken jerky dog treat. Her stories are the kind that you wouldn’t believe if she didn’t swear that they actually happened. The “Mostly True” part of the title is, as she explains, a way of protecting her family from all of the craziness she details at length throughout the book. Putting the disclaimer in the title is simply a nice way of telling the reader they should take everything Lawson says with a grain of salt. That being said, she insists all of the stories are completely true and as crazy as they sound. Jenny Lawson grew up in rural Texas, and had to deal with everything from radon-contaminated water, poultry following her to school and shitting all over the place, and getting her arm getting caught up a cow’s vagina. Lawson’s stories have a way of making you go, “Wow, my life is pretty great after all. At least I never had to artificially inseminate something on a high school field trip.” Animals are something of a motif throughout the book, and the constant bombardment of the grotesque is shocking and often. Her father was a hunter and taxidermist; the kind of guy that would bring home road kill, chop it up into little pieces and reassemble it into impossible creatures. He’d raise families of raccoons in the bathtub; boil skulls in a giant pot in the yard as a way of greeting Lawson’s in-laws, and throw wild cats at her boyfriend. Lawson works hard to laugh at all of this, but it’s clear that sometimes it’s too much even for her to shrug off. She claims it would’ve been easy for her to fill the book with childhood horror stories, because she clearly has a reservoir. She jokingly claims to have used the best ones for this memoir though, and that we should look forward to the rejects in her follow up books. It’s this blend of dry wit, blunt honestly, and vulnerable writing style that makes
her accessible and endlessly readable. Though she often tries hard to gloss over some of her more emotional stories with jokes (miscarriages, anorexia), her confessions can be heartbreaking and raw. The stories about her troubled youth are just as hilarious and vivid as the stories from her job in Human Resources, porn reviewer, and finally professional writer and stay at home mom. She struggles daily with rheumatoid arthritis, anxiety, depression, OCD, and trying to be a good wife and mother. It isn’t surprising when she goes on tangents about mythical creatures or horrible end of the world zombie attacks. It’s a game she plays with the reader. She realizes that you need a diversion only after she realizes she needed one herself. It’s hard not to root for Jenny Lawson.