I had been reading Jenny Lawson’s blog, The Bloggess, for a while before I saw the post that made me fall madly in love with her voice. Remember Beyoncé the giant metal chicken? (If you’re one of the two humans on earth who don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s a look.) When I read it, I laughed the kind of shaky, tears-rolling-down-my-face laugh that I do when something so ridiculous, so perfectly tuned to my own sense of humor comes along — something that maybe 9 out of 10 people would find completely bizarre, but that 10th person would find exquisite in its twisted hilarity. So I forwarded it along to all the 10th-people I knew. Then they forwarded it, too. So did everyone who saw it and thought, I’m not the only one who thinks like this.
I met Lawson in a bookstore signing line a year later, when her memoir Let’s Pretend This Never Happened came out. The book debuted at #1 on The New York Times bestseller list, yet its author was humble — goofy even — with the crowd, seemingly awed by all the hubbub. I had so much fun the first time I listened to her read from her own work; so I couldn’t be happier to be part of the Parnassus team bringing her to Nashville to read and sign her follow-up book, Furiously Happy.
With Lawson, what fans get in person is what they get on the screen and on the page, too. She drops cursewords into her sentence fragments. She wants to talk about the inappropriate things she accidentally blurts out in public; her fondness for sci-fi; her often crippling anxiety issues; and the hilarious conversations she has with her friends and spouse. And when she gets out there and does that — when she tells stories that say, “Hi, I’m kind of weird” — all the folks who thought they were the only ones cheer as if calling back, “I AM TOO!” Hers is a joyful following.
In her second book, which she subtitled “A Funny Book About Terrible Things,” Lawson delivers more of her hysterical stream-of-consciousness anecdotes. She also delves further into her own mental health issues, speaking candidly and in her own signature style about her struggles. The audience she has built has allowed her to spread messages of hope and encouragement to others who suffer from depression and anxiety, and this book will no doubt serve as a tool in that outreach. “Depression lies,” is a Lawson catchphrase. As she told Chapter16, “It’s always helpful to remind yourself that depression isn’t to be trusted and that you will be OK again, even if you can’t imagine it at the time.” (Read more of the interview, “You Will Be OK Again,” here.)
Here’s how I recommend you enjoy her book: Put it somewhere you’ll see it often — by your bedside, or on the seat next to you in the car, or on your desk — and pick it up when you have a spare moment. Let it be the “book on the side” to whatever serious literature you’re reading. Allow it to give you comic relief when you’re sitting in a waiting room or awake for no reason at 4 a.m. Read a few more pages. Laugh. And feel glad that the person behind this unique voice is out there, doing her thing, being herself. Because if she can, so can you.
See you soon,
Mary Laura Philpott