Let’s Pretend This Never Happened Or, Just Because You Know How To Swear Doesn’t Mean You Know How To Write

If you take a story filled with misfortune and pain, and scatter it lavishly with the F word, than you have some idea of Jenny Lawson’s book Let’s Pretend This Never Happened. Some people, like Augusten Burroughs and Oprah magazine, call it funny. I call it faintly pathetic. Reading these anecdotes in blog form is entertaining for as long as one is sitting before the screen. Reading them in novel form had me checking to see how many pages were left. One chapter abruptly ends, another begins, where a simple technique called paragraphing would have been sufficient.
I’m not quite sure what it is about misfortune that people seem to think is so funny. What was funny, to me, were the tales of the bizarre and quirky, such as having a taxidermist for a father who left carcasses which would somehow become playthings. Or, the quick turn of a phrase such as referring to her grandfather’s driving at 30 miles under the speed limit as “when snails attack“.
I think the appeal of this book lies in a certain irreverence for the mundane, as well as a brutally honest way of relaying personal stories. In a way, it’s comforting to read of someone’s life with a sense of relief that you’re not the only one who has had extraordinary experiences. You’re not the only one who has suffered a little bit at the hands of fate.

My friend Les wrote in response to an earlier post that Let’s Pretend This Never Happened has been a top seller in the Barnes and Noble store in which she works, and that “everyone seems to say it is the most hilarious memoir they’ve ever read.” Undoubtedly that’s true as the book was on the NY Times best seller list the first week it came out and was a goodreads choice winner for 2012. Just because I normally stand apart from the crowd doesn’t mean that you won’t love it.

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14 thoughts on “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened Or, Just Because You Know How To Swear Doesn’t Mean You Know How To Write”

  1. I couldn't finish this one. I don't mind irreverence or cursing, but this just…didn't seem to ever have a point. I love David Sedaris precisely because his essays arc well. There is ultimately a point to the funny.

    This just wasn't for me.

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  2. I'd never heard of this book or the author. So, I trucked over to Goodreads to check out more reviews. Then, I went to Ms. Lawson's blog. I read several entries. Just to be sure, I read a few more.

    I suppose in a society where women dressed as female private parts show up at the White House to engage in public protest, this could pass for humor. I found most of what I read poorly written and boring.

    I do appreciate the review, though. At least now if someone sends me a copy, I'll know to drop it directly into the garbage.

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  3. I wasn't crazy about this one – it was too crude for me and, after a while, I felt like she created drama in her own life. Who would go to a costume party dressed as a cheerleader and not wear underwear and then decide to tell her husband about it on the way to the door?

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  4. I can handle a blog post length of sarcasm but not a whole book. At some point, I begin to feel sad for the people in the book but if the tone remains chirpy and funny, then it's a problem for me.

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  5. Bellezza, you are not alone on this one. I've seen this book all over and I've read nothing but glowing reviews for it, yet I do not want to pick it up. It just sounds like something that would annoy me – reading someone trying to be cool and ironic as they recount the interesting bits and bobs of their life. Seems to me like its a lot of embellishment and balderdash. Oh well, on to the next read, right?

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  6. I just read a similar review about this book. I don't have an interest in reading it. I think it's always hard to change blog posts into a book. Some authors are successful at it and others aren't. Thanks for your honest review.

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  7. While I did enjoy it more than you did, I agree that the format of the blog posts really didn't translate well into a book format. It took me a surprising time to read it considering its length, because the format felt so uneven. It was great though to read another point of view on the book, after all the raving I got to read! 🙂

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  8. I listened to the audiobook version of this book and I LOVED it. Listening to the author read her stories adds something to the book. I see that other commenters are not fans of the book, but to each their own. I don't think it's fair to go so far as to call the book poorly written, though.

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  9. I can understand how listening to the author read her own work would be better than reading it for yourself. I think the reason why I call it poorly written is because using “fuck” as your main adjective became tiresome and surely doesn't show an adept skill with vocabulary. Also, I prefer classics, or at least literary fiction, and this was anything but literary to me. More like a very long blog post…

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  10. Crude? Poorly written? Boring? Hmmm, I haven't read it, but it sounds like another best seller that I have no desire to read. I'll give you fifty guesses. 😉

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