We "fans" (as she calls her readers) of Jen's book are a little like heroin addicts. In an effort the chase that first high of her very funny first book, we subject ourselves to the increasingly awful stuff she keeps putting out. Here you can read about a boring, self absorbed, grouchy, upper middle class middle aged lady moving to the suburbs, shopping at Whole Foods, taking her dog to the vet, getting a mamogram, making Thanksgiving dinner, meeting her friends for lunch and other equally mundane events. Most people would not be so emamored with themselves to think that these tedious topics would make for interesting reading She even includes footnotes plugging her other books and those of her friends. Ads in a book? Really? And sometimes she gets so cutsie you want to gag (words like ouchy, hurty, choppy, cutty). A lot of what seemed fresh and original in her first books is now tired and stale (creative use of ? marks, lots of "I'm all.... how many times can I say I'm all," calling something a "gateway drug"). She has no new material or ideas. Do we really need to hear about every single thing your pets do-pooping, eating, it's all in here. Her usual raving and ranting mostly just misses the mark.
I still remember first time I read Bright Lights Big Ass, though my memories are unquestionably better than those of the person unfortunate enough to be stuck (listening to me cackle) in the seat beside me. (But the way I see it, anyone who buys a middle seat knows they are playing Seat Roulette. All you can do is pray you aren't beside someone who has you begging the flight attendant to be moved to cargo--you won't tell if they don't--or down as many Jack and cokes as fast as you can and hopefully pass out quickly and before the urge to barf hits.)
Some of my best book finds have come from grabbing a book at random from an airport shop and scanning the jacket copy. I have hit gold too many times to stop the practice now, which is how I discovered Lancaster and "Bright Lights..." Unfortunately, for me this particular book mostly missed on the laughter scale.
There were a few "Jems" (as I call phrases or attitudes of hers that IMO are gems)--like when she asked somewhat rhetorically if we knew that peanut butter is now a hate crime. That was funny! And nearly true. As a society we seem to be losing our grip. Nicotine cigarettes and peanut butter move ever closer to the "contraband" category while meanwhile, individual states are (hallelujah) flipping off the fed. government and encouraging their residents to make like Cheech and Cbong and go ahead and roll a fatty!
Lancaster, even if unintentionally, was astute when she mused how kids today seem unable to express themselves unless in a tweet or text message. Are we losing the art of fine writing and the ability to recognize same? Were they alive today, would tweeting and texting delight and challenge Hemingway and Parker? Cause nervous breakdowns in Dickens and Dostoyevsky?
No matter; I still have faith in Jen. How can you NOT laugh when she compares bravely eating a Survivor-like sea critter to a sea urchin and describes it as feeling like being "French-kissed by a Japanese fishing boat?" LOL
Ever since I read Jen's first novel, Bitter is the New Black, I have gobbled up her prose like a fat kid eating birthday cake. So, I was extremely excited to read her latest memoir, especially since it's coined after my all-time favorite novel, Generation X (by Douglas Coupland). There were definite high points - notably, the opening essay where she talks about how Generation Xer's don't mesh especially well with the modern world, her take on "Millenials", and all the reasons why "Panang Thai Curry" is not your friend. But, there were also definite low points - all of her financial/estate planning tales (honey, your loan officer does NOT care if you eat a weird sea urchin, he care about the amount of capital you're bringing to the table for your home), the multiple tales of dealing with a generator, and her newfound love of cooking with pricey ingredients (I liked it better when she was making mini-pizzas on stale hamburger buns and eating Lucky Charms to avoid Fletch's experiments with Rachel Ray recipes!). But the main problem with this book is that if you follow Jen's website, Jennsylvania.com, most of these stories are recycled. Why am I paying for a hardcover book of a bunch of stories I've already read? Granted, I know Jen's work reflects what's actually going on in her life, but for those of us who've been with her since the beginning, all this focus on growing up misses the point of why we love Jen - we love her because she is still a big kid stuck in a grown-up body. And with this book, she's no longer that big kid, but now a rational-thinking adult. Where's the fun in that? I don't want to see Jen reform her "bad" habits, because the bad habits are what make her lovable and fun to read about. I love reading about her waging war on her neighbors, or being ousted by the condo coven of "Fat Girls and Gay Boys." Heck, I even liked reading about how she tried to move away from reality TV to become more cultured! But it almost feels like she's systematically changing everything I loved about her, and that sucks. Her new book, The Tao of Martha, is going to be her effort to Pintrest her life, and honestly, I'm TRYING to make myself be excited about it. But, right now I'm not there yet. Overall, Jeneration X sadly lacks the heart of her former books.