LIZZ FREE OR DIE by Lizz Winstead


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An odd book that falls into the gap between memoir and essay collection and one that lacks the amount of laughter or revelation that readers expect from an author who is known for comedy.

Winstead mainly enjoys peripheral name recognition. She was one of the co-creators of The Daily Show and its head writer, but she left the show “a few months before Jon Stewart took over for complicated reasons that are far less important than my wonderful experience of creating and bringing it to life.” She subsequently became one of the primary architects of the ill-fated Air America liberal radio network, where she co-hosted a program with an unknown discovery, Rachel Maddow. She also introduced Rosanne Barr and Tom Arnold. “This is a book of essays about life. My life,” she writes. “It’s not a memoir, per se.” However, “essays” might imply a series of pieces that can stand alone, which most of these can’t, and it’s closer to memoir in its chronological progression and dependence on information provided in earlier chapters to understand later ones. She calls these pieces “Messays,” which might seem like an unfortunate aberration if the book weren’t subsequently filled with similar neologisms. Her tendency to question her own memory causes her to “Lizzmember,” while her family's penchant for interrupting makes them all “Winsturrupters.” Yet her life seems richer and more inspirational in the lessons of experience than such cloying affectations suggest—as a liberal Minnesotan raised in a loving, conservative Catholic household, as a feminist in comic clubs where there was too much misogyny, as a daughter who suffered through the declining health and deaths of her parents. Winstead also has a couple of very funny, extended chapters: on the robbery of her parents at an assisted living home and of her experiences with dogs and vets.

Intermittently interesting—if only there were more evidence of the “observational humor” through which the author long made a living.

Pub Date: May 10th, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-59448-702-6
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Riverhead
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2012


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