OK this post here gives me zero pleasure. Like none whatsoever. I even contemplated not writing it at all because I’m sad about it.
But in the interest of fairness…I need to. I can’t only write about how fantastic books are right? Sometimes I need to warn you about the ones that I didn’t enjoy quite as much?
That’s what I’m telling myself anyway.
Those of you that know me in the real world will probably know that I am devoted to the bitchy brilliance of one Jen Lancaster. A friend of mine sent me a message specifically to tell me that she had read this book by Jen Lancaster that she just knew I would love and I needed to go and get my hands on it. Like right away.
I am nothing if not a dutiful friend so I went and I got Bitter is the New Black. I very clearly remember running a bubble bath (aren’t bubble baths the greatest?) and jumping in with this book and laughing my ass off within about 30 seconds. Something about a ‘retardy Artie’ really sticks with me. I now have a very substantial part of my memoir section in my home library (yup, I have subject sections) devoted to Jen Lancaster – Bitter is the New Black led to Bright Lights, Big Ass, Such A Pretty Fat, My Fair Lazy and Pretty in Plaid. I’m also a pretty consistent visitor of her fantastic blog.
And I think that that might be where I ran into trouble with her first foray into fiction, If You Were Here. It was funny. It was classic Lancaster. But it was supposed to be fiction. And having followed her blog so closely for a long time, it just felt like a thinly disguised memoir. And OK, write what you know (excellent advice from one Gilbert Blythe) but writing about what you know and writing about what you are doing? I mean James Frey got into some pretty deep shit for something similar.
Not that this has any of the same implications. For one thing, Oprah hasn’t gotten involved and been personally affronted.
IF You Were Here is funny. Hilarious even. But for someone that has read basically everything ever written by the author, a lot of it felt like a repeat. Mia is an author of zombie fiction and she and her husband decide to get back in the real estate game by buying a fixer upper. Not just any fixer upper mind you – Jake Ryan’s house. As in Jake Ryan from Sixteen Candles.
Obviously this is a disaster. But Mia is Jen. And Mac? Is Jen’s husband Fletch. And their cats? Are the Thunder Cats. Duckie and Daisy, the dogs? Are Jen’s dogs Loki and Maisy. Even her friends in If You Were Here sounded like her real life friends that I have read so much about.
As much as I wanted to enjoy it I just felt myself wishing for another Lancaster memoir. I’m in luck though. Jeneration X is due out later this spring.
And Ms Lancaster – if you somehow stumble across this? I’m really sorry and I still love you and want to be just like you when I grow up.