A few things I learned while reading Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir:
First: I’m definitely not the target audience for this book. Generally speaking, I don’t gravitate towards narrative, confessional essay collections because they are difficult to pull off with style. I tend to enjoy these collections when they are designed around a theme (even loosely), and they introduce me to new ways of viewing the world.
I’m not sure that was the Jenny Lawson‘s intent with this collection, which felt more like personal narratives built around a stream-of-conscious thought. Of course, her job isn’t to write a book to my tastes, but it’s important that I’m honest about my expectations (and how that influenced my reading.)
Second: After finishing the book, I asked several writers if they’d heard of Lawson. While the sampling was small, the responses can be broken into two broad categories: the women writers told me “YES! OMG! YES! I love her blog.” The men responded with “…”
Clearly another gap in my knowledge. Had I know Lawson’s work and audience grew from her blog, I’d have likely approached the book differently. Looking back, the chapters certainly had a light, airy, blog-like feel to them. The stories were (oftentimes) very much rooted in a single, mundane idea. On a blog, I could easily see how these personal stories would attract an audience.
Third: Since I’d approached the book as if it was a book of essays and not personal narratives, I’ve had a difficult time parsing out whether I disliked the book because of my expectations, because the format felt wrong (it felt like blogs compiled as a book), or something else. And I’m not sure it’s fair for me latch on to any of those ideas since — returning to the first point — I don’t think I’m the target audience.
However, the one criticism that I would offer is that when I finished the book I didn’t feel like I knew anything that I didn’t know before I read the book. I didn’t feel like I got to know the author, her husband, or anything that would connect to me to her world. In the end, that was what disappointed me the most. The book felt like a missed opportunity.
(So why did I read the book, you ask? A recommendation came from…someone, although I can no longer remember who. And my goal is read books recommended to me so that I’m not simply tracking down books and authors on my own.)