Yup, I couldn’t bear to shrink that cover photo. Jenny Lawson is bat-shit-crazy in the absolute best sense. Though mental illness – hers in particular – is the undercurrent of every essay, hell, every sentence, it doesn’t read like a book “about” mental illness. It reads like scorching, self-deprecating, stand-up comedy.
Some of the essays deal specifically with Lawson’s experience with mental illness and, true to the subtitle, these parts make it “a funny book about horrible things.” Her definition of depression is my first experience with an analogy that both captures the joy-suck hopelessness of depression while making me snicker with glee.
“Depression is like … it’s like when you meticulously scroll up through hundreds of pages in a Word document to find a specific paragraph you need to fix, and then you try to type but it automatically takes you right back down to the bottom because you forgot to place your cursor where you wanted to type. And then you bang your head against the desk because you just totally lost your place and then your boss walks in while you have your head planted on your desk and you see her shoes behind you so you immediately say, ‘I’m not sleeping. I was not sleeping. I was just banging my head against the desk because I fucked something up.'”
Jenny Lawson also writes as a woman in modern America, surrounded by societal voices that echo and amplify her own self-criticisms. She uses her talent as a writer to give those voices the finger. Of being a writer, she says: “You don’t have to go to some special private school to be an artist. Just look at the intricate beauty of cobwebs. Spiders make them with their butts.” Of the sad0-masochistic world of beauty and fashion, she shares a conversation with a friend about dermatological torture:
[Jenny]: “…[Y]ou get a skin consultation and analysis so basically you get your face ripped off and then they tell you how shitty you look. But that’s the price of beauty. That and forty-five dollars with Groupon. Apparently.”
”Wait a second,” Laura replied. “So I’m paying to have someone rip off my face and then shame me? It’s like this was made for women. COUNT ME IN.”
Of pharmaceuticals and medical shaming: “Surely the people naming antipsychotics could have come up with something less hurtful. After all, we don’t call Viagra the ‘floppy-dick pill’ and hardly any of us refer to anger-management therapy as ‘maybe-just-stop-being-such-an-asshole class’.”
I found this book to be therapeutic not in a self-help or psychotherapy sort of way, but in the “laughter is the best medicine” sort of way. And (wo)man did this book make me laugh, which made me feel better. (Except for the time I laughed so hard I peed a little bit and felt bad about my post-baby bladder control. And maybe the time I laugh-snorted while my poor husband and cat were sleeping and was faced with two equally baffled, giant-eyed looks of concern). Lawson writes with razor-sharp wit and boldly hilarious self-disclosure. Her tone is charismatic and captivating. When all is read and laughed, Jenny Lawson puts together hilariously honest moments that are well worth the read.
P.S. FINALLY someone shares my views on large water fowl and their diabolical natures.
“Victor insisted I had misunderstood the swans and so I looked swans up on the Internet and it was mostly pictures of their being all graceful and regal but when I looked hard enough there were plenty of websites saying “Oh, those motherfuckers will tear a bitch a down. DO NOT FUCK WITH THOSE ASSHOLES.” Seriously, they will break a man’s arm with a well-placed kick and last year they drowned a man in England. This is true and not just something I found in the National Enquirer. Swans are dangerous but are never held accountable, I suspect because of racial profiling. Also, according to the Internet if you’re attacked the best way to escape is to “grab the swan by the neck and heave it as far as you can,” which sounds like an Olympic event that PETA would be boycotting. You can also slap it across the face as hard as you can but I’m fairly certain that I’d fail at that because swan heads are notoriously tiny. It would be like playing tetherball, except that the pole would be moving and the rope would be a neck and the ball would be trying to eat you. Deadliest tetherball ever.”