The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Globe Life

September 26, 2011

Lisa Brown, book review: Women provide plenty of laughs in summer reads

JOPLIN, Mo. — Following the May 22 tornado, my reading habits changed -- for the better.

The first few weeks were utter chaos. I lived in a hotel for two weeks, moved to a rental house while my home was repaired, and packed up my belongings to keep them out of the way of the builders.

Despite that mess, I managed to read more than usual. When I had a spare minute, I’d grab a book or magazine. I listened to audiobooks in my car. I spent quality time with my Kindle.  

In particular, I turned to humorous books to buoy my spirits.

Tina Fey’s “Bossypants” was just what I needed, post-tornado. I’ve been a fan of her for years. She’s smart, hilarious and very much a feminist. (And let’s not forget the awesomeness of her Sarah Palin impression.)

In this collection of essays, she covers ground both personal and professional: her childhood as the daughter of a Greek mom and an uber-cool dad; her time in the Second City comedy troupe; her years as a writer and performer for “Saturday Night Live” and then “30 Rock”; marriage and motherhood; the importance placed on a woman’s physical appearance.  

I laughed all the way through this book. Perhaps the funniest chapter describes her unfortunate honeymoon trip to Bermuda. Let’s just say that it entails a cruise-ship fire and a husband who’s petrified of flying.

I also loved all the behind-the-scenes stories about “Saturday Night Live” and how things have changed for female writers and performers in the past decade. Just don’t make the same mistake I did and read the “SNL” chapter while eating lunch. The descriptions of the male writers’ bathroom habits were disgusting.

A few months later, I checked out the audio version of “Bossypants” so that I could hear the author herself read it. She did not disappoint.

Fey’s narration is spot-on. By turns, she’s funny, snarky, sweet and candid. She does great impressions of people, including herself at various points in her life. Her anecdotes about her awkward teen and college years had me giggling and cringing.

An added bonus of this edition of “Bossypants” is that Fey slips in some asides specific to the audio and even plays an entire sketch, her now-classic first appearance as Sarah Palin on “SNL.”

Chelsea Handler is another author I turned to for laughs this summer. “Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea” covers everything from her first DUI to traveling to Costa Rica with her recently widowed father, who scores them an upgrade to first class by telling airline staff that they’re on their honeymoon.

But consider yourself warned: If you’re offended by swearing and other not-so-nice language, this book, especially in audio format, might not be for you.  

Still in a Chelsea Handler frame of mind, I moved on to “Lies that Chelsea Handler Told Me,” authored by “Chelsea’s family, friends, and other victims.” Although far from hilarious, the book had its moments.

The essays detail how Handler fools people with her unbelievable lies, ranging from false pregnancies to fake romantic relationships. It seems there is no lie that Chelsea Handler won’t tell in order to mess with people.

 Even her dog, Chunk, gets in on the act; the last piece in the book is “authored” by the furry mixed-breed.

Unfortunately, I also listened to “Lies” in audio format. I say “unfortunately,” because the authors narrated their own essays, and many of them aren’t professional performers. Most of them sounded like they were reading aloud in a high-school English class. Yawn.

Finally, I zipped through “Wishful Drinking,” an adaptation of Carrie Fisher’s -- aka Princess Leia -- one-woman stage show of the same name. She touches on everything from being Princess Leia, life with her famous parents (Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher), her drug and alcohol abuse and her battle with bipolar disorder.

Although I enjoy Fisher’s self-deprecating sense of humor, I found “Wishful Drinking” too slight and the structure a little loose, perhaps because it’s meant to mimic her stage show. I would have preferred more detailed, formal essays or even an outright memoir.

Thanks for the laughs this summer, ladies. I needed them.


Lisa E. Brown is the Administrative Assistant at the Joplin Public Library.

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