Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Road Trip Reading

I just got back from a road trip to visit family on the east coast. We used to make this trip every summer when our children were small, until the time our youngest figured out how to open the car door with his toes while sitting in his car seat. We figured then it was safer to fly. But now that guy can drive so he and I decided to try again. It went much better, except that, having recently read The Passage, I was compelled to watch out for vampires under every overpass.

We listened to two audiobooks (chosen by consensus) on the way and I read another book while there, so here is a recap:

Bossypants by Tina Fey (and a Tina Fey/Christopher Hitchens smackdown)

This is a straightforward autobiography about Fey’s childhood, her early years in the Chicago improv community, and about Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock. If you aren’t a fan you probably won’t be interested, but if you are, it’s engrossing. I especially liked her analysis of women in comedy. Coincidentally, last week my father happened to be reading a collection of essays by Christopher Hitchens, and so I read Hitchens’s infamous 2007 essay Why Women Aren’t Funny while visiting him. It was annoying beyond words, but I’m not the first to say that. Here are a few choice quotes, if you haven’t seen them:

There are more terrible female comedians than there are terrible male comedians, but there are some impressive ladies out there. Most of them, though, when you come to review the situation, are hefty or dykey or Jewish, or some combo of the three. 


 … because they are partly ruled in any case by the moon and the tides, women also fall more heavily for dreams, for supposedly significant dates like birthdays and anniversaries, for romantic love, crystals and stones, lockets and relics, and other things that men know are fit mainly for mockery and limericks. 

Is he serious? Or is this essay just one big metajoke that, because I am a woman, I don’t get? Bossypants was way better. Grade A.

Seriously...I’m Kidding by Ellen DeGeneres 

Ellen is funny, too, but unlike Bossypants, this book was totally devoid of content. It was just Ellen riffing on this and that, and sometimes just making funny noises (I think – maybe I was sleeping during that part). I wouldn’t recommend paying actual money for this book but you could get the audiobook from the library and listen to it on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and not regret it. That’s the best I can do. Grade C.

Bowling Avenue by Ann Shayne 

Ann Shayne is another funny woman. Together with her collaborator, Kay Gardiner, she writes hilarious knitting books, writes and acts in satirical videos, and has a very clever blog. Bowling Avenue is Shayne’s first attempt at mainstream fiction. The plot is a (fairly predictable) story of two lonely people who fall for each other during the Tennessee flood of 2010. Shane has a joky narrative voice and the first-person text is punctuated with folksy asides like “sheesh” and “Jebus” which made me feel a little like I was reading one long blog entry, but it is an enjoyable read and has hardly anything in it about knitting, if that would put you off. I bought the book as a Kindle download but you can also get a print-on-demand copy from Shane’s website, here. Grade B.

(Books 23-25, 2012)


Shelley said...

Yes, Tina Fey is not dumb. There's always a subtext of her awareness of what it takes for a woman to survive in "the business."

LINDA from Each Little World said...

I recommend "How to Be a Woman" by Caitlin Moran. So funny I was practically crying at times but the best feminist manifesto I've ever read. Smart, crazy, insightful and just a great read. I've been thinking about reading Bossypansts since Moran's book is compared by some reviewers to Bossypants. But I have a feeling Moran may tell a better and funnier story.

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