A spirited memoir/manifesto that dares readers to “stand on a chair and shout ‘I AM A FEMINIST.’ ”
With equal amounts snarky brio and righteous anger, Moran brings the discussion of contemporary women’s rights down from the ivory tower and into the mainstream. Although women have come a long way from the battles fought by the early suffragettes and the first-wave feminists of the 1960s and ’70s, they have also lost ground in some disturbing ways. Society still scrutinizes female sexual behavior for incipient signs of “sluttiness”; girls still grow up dreaming of becoming brides and wives (aka princesses), and pornography and strip clubs still objectify women. Moreover, celebrity culture puts women under a magnifying glass, dismissing their talents in favor of crowing over their physical flaws, their marital status and whether or not they have children. Into this sorry mess strides Moran, a self-deprecating, no-nonsense guide to womanhood. She frames her debate via a series of chapters detailing her own journey toward becoming not only a woman, but also a good person—polite, kind, funny and fundamentally decent. After all, feminism, she argues, is not a form of man hating; it is a celebration of women’s potential to effect change and an affirmation of their equality with men. That such an important topic is couched in ribald humor makes reading about Moran’s journey hilarious as well as provocative. With nary a hint of embarrassment, she reveals personal anecdotes about her miserable early adolescence as an overweight girl and her evolution into a music journalist who took London by storm on a quest to fall in love—or at least to kiss a lot of boys. She proves equally forthright in her views on abortion, childbearing and high heels. While some American readers may struggle with the British references and slang, they will find their efforts rewarded.
Rapturously irreverent, this book should kick-start plenty of useful discussions.
A worthy successor to Crosley’s well-received debut, I Was Told There’d Be Cake (2008).
Where her first collection focused on a young professional’s life in Manhattan, this follow-up finds the author—whose day job as a book publicist is rarely mentioned—taking her show on the road. She gets lost in Lisbon (actually, she gets lost pretty much everywhere), threatened by a bear in Alaska and all but deported from France—or at least discouraged from ever again visiting Notre Dame. Most of the book is funny, some of it even laugh-out-loud, but her literary gifts go well beyond easy laughs. The humor flows naturally and subtly from characters and situations, as if these were real-life short stories. “An Abbreviated Catalog of Tongues,” which initially seems to be a perfunctory pet essay, yet turns revelatory in a number of directions, addressing everything from sibling relationships to her parents’ religion. “[M]y parents are not big believers in God,” she writes. “Or, rather, they believe in him partially. Which is tricky. It’s like being kind of pregnant or only mostly dead. You’re either in or you’re out.” Perhaps the finest essay is the final one, “Off the Back of a Truck,” a clever, challenging piece from which the book takes its title. Initially about wanting what you can’t afford, it transforms into an exploration of receiving what you want that you can’t afford, through means that you’re only partially willing to admit are pretty shady. Ultimately, though, it becomes a meditation on a romance that forces Crosley to come to terms with a truth she’d suspected and the lie she was living. It’s the least humorous of the collection, but the most unflinchingly true.
Confirmation of the promise shown in the author’s bestselling debut.
One of the world’s cleverest comedy writers debuts with a frequently hilarious memoir.
Perhaps best known to mass audiences for her writing and performances on Saturday Night Live, Fey’s most inventive work is likely her writing for the critically acclaimed TV show 30 Rock, in which she stars alongside Alec Baldwin and fellow SNL alum Tracy Morgan. In typical self-deprecating style, the author traces her awkward childhood and adolescence, rise within the improv ranks of Second City and career on the sets of SNL and 30 Rock. The chapter titles—e.g., “The Windy City, Full of Meat,” “Peeing in Jars with Boys” and “There’s a Drunk Midget in My House”—provide hints at the author’s tone, but Fey is such a fluid writer, with her impeccable sense of comic timing extending to the printed page, that near-constant jokes and frequent sidebars won’t keep readers from breezing through the book with little trouble, laughing most of the way. Though she rarely breaks the onslaught of jokes (most at her own expense), she does offer an insightful section on the exhaustively analyzed concept of the “working mom,” which she finds tedious. (Even here, the author finds plenty of room for humor—not wanting to admit she uses a nanny, Fey writes, “I will henceforth refer to our nanny as our Coordinator of Toddlery.”) Fey may not sling a lot of dirt about her many famous co-stars in Second City, SNL and 30 Rock, but her thoughts on her geeky adolescence, the joys of motherhood and her rise to TV stardom are spot-on and nearly always elicit a hearty laugh. Even the jacket copy is amusing: “Once in a generation a woman comes along who changes everything. Tina Fey is not that woman, but she met that woman once and acted weird around her.”
Highly recommended, even for those who have already read the excerpts in the New Yorker. Fey is one of the funniest people working today.
A triumphant memoir recounting the inner struggles of one of the most versatile actresses working today.
The breakout star of TV’s Glee on and the hit movies Best in Show and Role Models recounts her past as an archetypical tragic clown—laughing on the outside but highly anxious on the inside. Growing up in suburban Illinois, Lynch always dreamed of becoming an actress. But at the outset of her career, the author was so wracked with fear, anxiety and self-doubt, she almost derailed her own ambitions. Crushing on the gals at school instead of the guys—and trying to hide her sexuality—didn’t help. Desperately wanting to belong, Lynch only alienated herself from the people with whom she sought connection and camaraderie. The author delves into these topics, and many more, with a well-earned sense of self-awareness. When she finally attains not only love, but a whole new family, and achieves fulfillment in her career, readers cannot help but share in her obvious joy. The screwy sense of the preposterous imbued in so many of Lynch’s on-screen characters is in full effect here, even when the author recalls some of her darkest moments—like those times when she sought to kill the long, solitary hours between live performances with over-the-counter tranquilizers.
Achingly sad and sweetly comic at the same time.
Comedienne Wentworth revisits her privileged and precocious early years.
In this satirical dissection of class and privilege, the author, daughter of President Ronald Reagan’s social secretary Muffie Cabot, mines a childhood spent among America’s elite. By the time she landed a role on the sketch show In Living Color, Wentworth had already put on vaudevillian after-dinner performances for Henry Kissinger. As a socialite in training, she keyed into a number of important life lessons—e.g., “There’s a fine line between WASP victuals and white-trash cuisine.” Wentworth’s glib take on America’s social hierarchy might initially seem like a blue blood’s guide to slumming it, but her savvy understanding of what she’s been given versus what she’s earned makes for a sharp critique of class and power. She probes her marriage to former political operative and current TV newsman George Stephanopoulos for insights about pregnancy, child-rearing and compromise. Her understated prose and deadpan humor go a long way toward making this account of life among the one-percenters easy to swallow. If readers aren’t taken with her charm, they’d be well advised to follow her mother’s catch-all advice: “Just go to the Four Seasons.” Nothing’s better than blocking out the world behind silk curtains, sinking into crisp linen sheets and ringing for tea and crumpets. Wentworth would likely suggest the same remedy to readers who aren’t immediately enamored with her collection of vignettes. She’d be winking slyly as she did, though.
A mostly funny, irreverent memoir on the foibles of growing up weird.
In blogger Lawson’s debut book, “The Bloggess” (thebloggess.com) relies entirely on her life stories to drive an unconventional narrative. While marketed as nonfiction, it’s a genre distinction the author employs loosely (a point made clear in the book’s subtitle). On the opening page she defends the subtitle, explaining, “The reason this memoir is only mostly true instead of totally true is that I relish not getting sued.” Yet Lawson also relishes exaggerative storytelling, spinning yarns of her childhood and early adulthood that seem so unbelievable they could hardly be made up. Nearly every line is an opportunity for a punch line—“Call me Ishmael. I won’t answer to it, because it’s not my name, but it’s much more agreeable that most of the things I’ve been called”; “And that’s how I ended up shoulder-deep in a cow’s vagina”; “there’s nothing more romantic than a proposal that ends with you needing a tetanus shot”—and while the jokes eventually wear thin, by that point readers will be invested in Lawson herself, not just her ability to tell a joke. The author’s use of disclaimers, editorial notes and strike-thrus leaves the book feeling oddly unfinished, though it’s a calculated risk that serves well as an inside joke shared between writer and reader at the expense of the literary elite.
While Lawson fails to strike the perfect balance between pathos and punch line, she creates a comic character that readers will engage with in shocked dismay as they gratefully turn the pages.
A hit-and-miss debut collection of humorous essays from Daily Show correspondent Bee.
The best pieces here are very funny, and the author’s skewed, satirical perspective, honed on the show, is evident throughout most of the book. Particularly memorable essays cover the Canadian writer’s pubescent crush on Jesus (“I didn’t need to be a bride of Christ. I was comfortable just dating Him, and if things got a little more serious, then that was cool, too…I had a notebook dedicated to ironing out the details of my postmarital name change. Samantha Christ. Mrs. Jesus Christ, Lamb of God”); her propensity for attracting pedophiles trying to ply her with free pizza, and with strange men exposing themselves to her (“A penis is a fair-weather friend at best, but for some reason it’s always sunny in Bee-town. And I don’t mean that as a compliment”); her courtship with her husband Jason Jones, also a Daily Show correspondent; and the couple’s misadventures in children’s theater (“Children’s entertainment was a natural fit for me because (a) I dislike other people’s children, and (b) I was unemployable in virtually every other aspect of show business”). Bee is at her best in “May December Never Come,” about the yuckiness of dating across generations and having your boyfriend mistaken for your father, or vice versa (“the only way to describe how this makes me feel is to say that it makes my vagina nauseous, if that’s even physically possible”). Lesser pieces meander, making it hard to find the point, while others are too scattered. Her conversational phrasing suggests an engaging monologist, but as a writer she would benefit from a stronger edit.
The book will certainly please longtime fans, whether or not it attracts new ones.
A humorous tirade on nearly everything and everyone.
Rivers (Men Are Stupid…And They Like Big Boobs, 2008, etc.) is back with an entertaining rant on how she hates nearly everything and everyone, especially herself. Nothing is sacred to Rivers as she delivers one-liners on the whole shebang of human existence. From birthing a child, having sex, getting married, growing old and dying, to living in cities, eating in restaurants and travelling to foreign lands, the author gives readers her unusual perspective on each scenario. On manners: "I hate people who blow their nose at the dinner table and then look in their hankie. What do they think they're going to find?" On dating younger men: “I’ll never be a cougar. I don’t like younger men. I don’t ever want to wake up in the morning and wonder, Is this my date or did I give birth last night?” On cities: "I hate San Francisco because I not only left my heart there but my hairdresser." Show business, nature, even the slogans each state uses to promote itself…none are immune to Rivers' often-caustic jesting. Relentless in her pursuit, the author is sure to offend everyone at some point in this book, regardless of the comedic intent. The only thing missing is the sound of a drum roll and cymbals to feel as though one is sitting in a nightclub watching a live comedy marathon. The book is best read in small, random batches, with a large martini in hand.
Actress, producer and director Marshall's frank and funny memoir about the path that led her from an ordinary childhood in New York City to Hollywood stardom.
Marshall never planned to get into acting. But her mother, who ran a neighborhood dance and acrobatics school for children in the Bronx, always believed that "every child should know what it feels like to entertain.” So she began teaching her daughter the rudiments of physical movement before she was 1 year old. By the time Marshall was a teenager, she and the other girls her mother taught had performed at churches, charity events and telethons; they had even appeared on the Jackie Gleason Show. Dancing, however, was not Marshall's passion. A mediocre student with no idea what she would do with her life, she went to the University of New Mexico, a college that "accepted anyone from out of state.” A few years later, Marshall was a divorced UNM dropout who had lost custody of her child, but she had also started to find her niche as an actress through involvement in community theater. She went to Hollywood to join her brother Garry, who was building a career as a comedy writer for TV and got bit parts in such classic TV shows as That Girl and The Odd Couple. She finally came into her own in the mid-1970s as the star of the hit sitcom Laverne & Shirley, and then in the ’80s and early-’90s as the director of the hit films Big and A League of Their Own. Marshall is as candid about her failures (which include a painful second divorce from writer/comedian Rob Reiner) and her weaknesses (like the one she developed for drugs) as she is about her successes. With gratitude for a life lived on her own terms, she writes, "I've been given my five minutes…and then some.”