Full disclosure: I’m not an avid reader by any stretch of the imagination. I am currently “in the process” of reading seven books.* That number would have been eight if I hadn’t finished re-reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows this weekend or if I’d gotten around to starting The Hunger Games yet. This doesn’t mean I’m a slow reader, though. When a book pulls me in, I will forgo meal times and social activities to read it. My first read of Deathly Hallows took two days, read in backstage moments between scenes of a show I was in; Bill Bryson’s Shakespeare was finished in a few days on the couch during in-law holiday gatherings; Pamela Ribon’s Why Girls Are Weird had me searching out cozy nooks in a hotel in Myrtle Beach to read on vacation. Tina Fey’s Bossypants joins that club, finished in two days during late work shifts and finishing just one more chapter before bed.
Read as an autobiography or memoir, Bossypants probably isn’t very compelling. Tina Fey has been blessed with some pretty good luck, timing, opportunities, or whatever you’d like to call it. Jumping from childhood to camp to working her way up through Second City ranks to getting the gig at SNL on her first try and an NBC sitcom on her second, her story is definitely not one of overcoming adversity. If that’s what you’re looking for from her book, you’ll find yourself disappointed (as, it appears Anna Holmes was).
Read as a book of humorous essays, however, it becomes a book that you only put down so that you can go grab your husband or coworker from the other room and make them listen to you read entire pages aloud, knowing full well that you can never impart in your voice exactly why it’s so damn funny to you. Tina Fey’s brand of humor is a dry, but every so slightly exaggerated observation of the world. It’s why many women have latched onto her as a new kind of feminist role model, glad to have someone who points out the absurdity of the world in a much funnier way than we probably could. Where we might roll our eyes at the latest GOOP newsletter where Gwyneth outlines her day that’s just like ours, we can laugh along with the chapter in which Tina Fey describes what photo shoots are like because she seems to find it just as ridiculous as it should probably seem. The self-deprecation hits news heights in the iTunes Enhanced iBook edition (which is the one I read) where certain text will take you to bonus pictures, including one of her striking a hilariously fierce pose and pictures to illustrate pages titled “Remembrances of Being Very Very Skinny” and “Remembrances of Being a Little Bit Fat.”
Read as an advice book for feminists … well, first I’d ask you where you were a year ago when the “Tina Fey isn’t really the feminist idol we thought she was“ backlash started happening. Then, after you’ve updated yourself and put that issue to bed like most of the rest of us, you do find some great, no-nonsense bits of admittedly unsolicited advice from Fey. My favorite of which being:
When faced with sexism or ageism or lookism or even really aggressive Buddhism, ask yourself the following question: “Is this person in between me and what I want to do?” If the answer is no, ignore it and move on. Your energy is better used doing your work and outpacing people that way. Then, when you’re in charge, don’t hire the people who were jerky to you.
Should you read Bossypants if you’re looking for a deep, philosophical book that answers all your questions about what it means to be a feminist in 2011? Or if you’re looking for career advice from someone who struggled to break through that glass ceiling? Not really. Will you enjoy it if you don’t saddle it with those expectations and just enjoy it as a collection of humorous essays written by a person you enjoy? Definitely.
*For those interested (all one of you): Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, Howard Bloom; Atonement, Ian McEwan; Invitation to the Party, Donna Walker-Kuhne; On Directing, Harold Clubman; Playing Shakespeare, John Barton; Shakespeare Wrote for the Money, Nick Hornby; and Full Frontal Feminism, Jessica Valenti. With the exception of the last two, the last have been “in progress” for well over a year. And yes, that’s a oddly high number of books relating to Shakespeare from a girl who mostly recaps shows about vampires and dead bodies.
Bossypants / Tina Fey. Reagan Arthur Books/Little, Brown and Company, April 5, 2011. $26.99 USD (Edition Reviewed: Bossypants (Enhanced Edition) via iBooks.)
Cover Image: Little Stranger, Inc via Amazon.com