While I am a big fan of literary novels and an occasional reader of non-fiction (more in the last few years than prior to my Peace Corps service), I had a real soft-spot for this new genre of comedy/memoir book that seems to have sprung up in the last few years. (Now that I think about it, maybe it has been there all along and I am just rediscovering it. I remember pulling dusty Erma Bombeck books off the shelf in our family room at home and devouring those during naptimes, when I didn’t have to sleep, but I did have to entertain myself quietly so my parents could have a few minutes of sanity each afternoon, all summer long.)
There are many things to like about these comedy/memoirs. The chapters are usually rather short, which are perfect for reading in a bubble bath or the taxi on the way to work. (Who ever thought a bubble bath and a taxi in Chengdu would have anything in common?) Also, the chapters, while all tied together, stand alone, making it okay if the books sits on my nightstand for a week or two, unread, because I somehow picked up another book and haven’t made it back to the first. Often times there are pictures or charts or comics to break up the various sections of the book, which let’s face it, even as adults, we like to see.
I was excited when I heard Tina Fey had a new book, Bossypants, coming out soon. I guess not excited enough though, since it took me over a year to actually get my hands on a copy and read it. In retrospect, I have to say that that is okay.
Tina Fey is awesome. I loved her in “Weekend Updates” on Saturday Night Live and her Sarah Palin was spot on during the 2008 presidential campaign. But, the book wasn’t everything I ever hoped it would be.
It was funny, at times. It was entertaining, at times. But, for comedy, it seemed to take itself a little too seriously, at times. There were points where I felt like I was getting a lecture about being a proper feminist, about how females can be funny, can have jobs and families, their cake and they can even eat it too.
I’m living the life I want to live. I don’t need Ms. Fey to give me a self-esteem boost. I just need a laugh after a long day of gray skies.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not totally panning the book. There were great parts to it and it did make me laugh. I loved hearing the backstories of the path that lead her to producing an award winning television series and some behind-the-scenes peeks at SNL. I especially got a kick out of the chapter about when her mom gave her the “special” booklet about becoming a woman, which had three best friends chatting with each other about their changing bodies. I clearly remember getting a similar pamphlet in the sixth grade, after sitting through a truly horrifying presentation by the school nurse, in which three flowers are going through “the change” and discussing what is happening to them. (On a total tangent, but are the flowers as main characters a snarky nod to “the birds and the bees?”)
Maybe I went into this book with a misconception about what it was. It isn’t really a memoir in the sense I expected, but rather a comedic look at the winding road required for women to be successful in a male-dominated field, like comedy. I would offer the book to a friend, for sure, but I would also warn them that it isn’t just a laugh-along look at the life and times of Ms. Tina Fey. It attempts more depth than that and definitely achieves a sharper edge. Overall, Bossypants was a great break from the longer novels and more intense non-fiction books that have been on the top of my reading pile lately. Tina Fey’s Bossy Pants earns a solid: