Thursday, July 5, 2012

Growing up with help from words

This pile of books is all about growing up in some form or another, and I burned through them because I'm clinging to that topic like a five-year-old to their teddy bear since life keeps reminding me that I have no idea what I'm doing. Perhaps these guys do.

Book: Lizz Free or Die
Author: Lizz Winstead
Publication: 2012 (Riverhead Books)
Pages: 302

Lizz Winstead definitely does. She created the Daily Show and ran it for a couple pre-Jon Stewart years, but that's your typical 18-hour we-became-a-family-with-FCC-fines TV writing experience. The really interesting bits are how she got there, and really good part is that she actually answers that in a satisfactory fashion: she worked her ass off at a day job and comedy clubs and writing in a giant armchair until she made herself known. She also talks about her family, my favorite quote from the whole book being her dad saying, "I raised you to have an opinion. I just thought it'd be mine." HA! 
She's more straightforward and less joke-a-minute, which makes some parts less funny and a little bit more sincere than maybe they could've/should've been, but on the whole it's a great non-cheesy yet still inspirational collection of ways how a wiseass lady made all her hard work pay off.
Plus this happened as proof that Liberry Tom is awesome:


Book: I Was Told There'd Be Cake
Author: Sloane Crosley
Publication: 2008 (Riverhead Books)
Pages: 228

Sloane Crosley's also a good, aspirational essay read. She's young enough to inspire envy by her publication history but frank enough about exploiting her own faults and later insight (like when she as a Jewish kid went to borderline-Bible camp and neither she nor her parents realized it until years later). Her subjects are typical (dating, life in NYC, career, religion) but with specific, neurotic twists (a plastic pony collection, baking her first and terrible boss a cookie in the shape of her head, her parents' extreme fear of indoor fires and insistence on having Christmas as well as Hanukkah) that shows she knows how funny details are. She knows that life is weird and unfair and sometimes we just have to embrace the absurdity to get through it. And she's there to record how it goes down.

Book: Such a Pretty Fat
Author: Jen Lancaster
Publication: 2008 (New American Library)

Jen Lancaster, on the other hand, does not go down without a fight once she figures out what she wants to change about herself. Her memoir is about her quest to get past her own ego enough to get in shape for health reasons. I love that she's the exact opposite of every other dieting memoir in the fact that she starts from a place of self-love instead of hate. She's quick-witted but in way that's predictable if you've been paying attention to pop culture for the past six or seven years. Her lack of motivation is understandable but starts to sound ridiculous and whiny when you realize that she's getting paid to do all this and record it in a sort of meta-diary. 
She also stages conversations for exposition. I can tell, what with the block of text and the eerily specific questions her friends pointedly ask her at weird times. It was like seeing an obvious body double for Chantum Tatum (did I spell that right? Probably not; I don't care because he's not nerdy or British) in Magic Mike when he did the serious break dancing: I see what you did there and it's a little stilted but okay fine, it gives the general idea. 

Book: 20 Something Essays by 20 Something Writers
Authors: various
Publication: 2005 (Random House)

All the writers in here wish they could have Lancaster's job. They're all struggling, mostly with careers and why any of us are here in the first place, and they're all eloquent about it. I liked the one about the soldier who starts a mustache-growing contest with his fellow recruit to distract them while they're in Kuwait. I liked them all, but that was my favorite. The one about a new dad working a late-night Wendy's shift was good too but not any better, and it bothered me that there was an editor's note claiming how in love they fell with that one and why that one won the prize. Maybe that just speaks to the excellent level of overall quality in here. 

I enjoyed these, but now I think I'm going to jump ship from reality literature for the next couple offerings. These were almost too real.

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