Book Review: “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened” by Jenny Lawson

My husband could not wait until I was done reading this book. For one thing, I couldn’t read it in bed while he was trying to sleep because my laughing would shake the whole mattress, followed by me going, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” and then cracking up all over again. When I read it in his presence, I felt compelled to read portions (okay, large portions) aloud, and while he found what I read funny, he was still like, “Dude. I’m trying to do something here. And that something is not trying to decipher what you’re saying through laughter.”

Most of all, he couldn’t wait for me to finish because “This book is making all your”¦ tics worse.”

WHATEVER DO YOU MEAN?

Yeah, so I have a chronic illness, am prone to depression and panic attacks, am superstitious, have irrational fears of things like the plumbing aisle at Home Depot, compulsively collect things, have to put away the groceries just so, think animals are hilarious, get overly attached to objects, and spend a lot of time on Twitter.

Oh. That’s what you mean. WELL, FINE.

Let's Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess) - cover
The mouse’s name is Hamlet von Schnitzel.

So yes, Jenny Lawson, better known as The Bloggess, is My People. I get what it’s like to be not entirely “normal” and embracing it. Lawson says she wrote the book “to celebrate the strange, and to give thanks for the bizarre. Because you are not defined not by life’s imperfect moments, but by your reaction to them.” Hear, hear.

Unlike with Sara Benincasa’s Agorafabulous!, which left me feeling a bit unsettled about my various idiosyncrasies, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened was a welcome immersion. Yes, to the people in my life, this, coupled with a particularly brain-foggy period, had the effect of making me even more silly and scatterbrained, but it helped me. It made me feel like strangeness is delightful, rather than something to manage and push away. As long as I wasn’t being self-destructive, fuck it, let’s run with it.

Still, while my dad was prone to tics of his own, Lawson’s dad takes the delightfully strange to a whole new level:

When I tell people that my father is kind of a total lunatic, they laugh and nod knowingly. They assure me that theirs is too, and that he’s just a “typical father.”

And they’re probably right, if the typical father runs a full-time taxidermy business out of the house, and shows up at the local bar with a miniature donkey and a Teddy Roosevelt impersonator, and thinks other people are weird for making such a big deal out of it. If the typical father says things like, “Happy Birthday! Here’s a bathtub of raccoons!” or “We’ll have to take your car. Mine has too much blood in it,” then yeah, he’s totally normal. Still, I don’t remember any of the kids from Charles in Charge feeling around the deep freeze for the Popsicles and instead pulling out an enormous frozen rattlesnake that Charles had thrown in while it was still alive. Maybe I missed that episode. We didn’t watch a lot of TV.

That’s why whenever people try to tell me how their “insane father” would sometimes fall asleep on the toilet, or occasionally catch the house on fire, I put my finger to their lips and whisper, “Hush, little rabbit. Let me give you perspective.”

My favorite “Crazy Dad and Animal Story” involves Jenkins the turkey, a turkey that Lawson’s dad insists is a “jumbo quail.” Jenkins was the leader of a group that he brought home, and the turkeys had a habit of following Lawson and her sister to school, “lurking behind us like improbable gang members or tiny, feathered rapists.” She would pretend to ignore them and not know where they came from, even though every kid in her school knew otherwise. Eventually, the turkeys would wander home.

Then one day, Jenkins and two other turkeys managed to get inside the school, and in the hour that Lawson stayed in her classroom with feigned obliviousness, they’d managed to “shit everywhere. It was actually a little bit impressive, and also horribly revolting.”

A half-hour later, when my class lined up to go to PE, I found my father on his knees, cleaning up poop in the lobby. He was unsuccessfully attempting to shoo the turkeys away, quietly but forcefully yelling, “GO HOME, JENKINS.” I froze and tried to blend into the wallpaper, but it was too late. Jenkins recognized me, gobbling with excited recognition like, “OH MY GOD, ISN’T THIS AWESOME? WHO ARE YOUR FRIENDS?” and for the first time I didn’t run screaming from him. Instead I sighed and waved weakly, mumbling dejectedly, “Hey, Jenkins,” as my classmates stared at me in amazement. But not the good kind of amazement, like when your uncles show up at your school in a limo to invite you to live with them, and they’re Michael Jackson and John Stamos, but you never mentioned it before because you didn’t want to brag, and everyone feels really bad for not inviting you to their slumber parties when they had the chance.

Lawson can get a bit adverb-happy (see the above “dejectedly”), and sometimes I would omit the unnecessary ones when reading aloud to my husband (what? I’m an editor), but usually I was too busy laughing to notice. Well, I noticed, but it didn’t bother me as much.

Conversations with her husband, Victor, feel like slightly exaggerated versions of what happened, and maybe entire portions of the book are exaggerated, but whatever. My husband and I have conversations that would appear unreal in print too.That’s what the (A Mostly True Memoir) subtitle is for. The point of memoirs isn’t that they be 100% true to fact, but that they be true to how it felt to have those experiences, and to me, Jenny Lawson seems authentic in all her crazy goofiness.

There are also more serious portions not having to do with animals, dealing with her bouts of depression and anxiety, her diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis, and her many miscarriages before having their daughter, Hailey. Her tales of working in human resources are also funny, and a good reminder that pretty much everyone has their own version of insanity.

Basically, I could pull out a paragraph or seven that I loved in every chapter in the book. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened became an instant favorite of mine, and I will gladly buy any book that Jenny Lawson releases from here on out. Much to my husband’s chagrin.

Published by

Sara Habein

Sara Habein is the author of Infinite Disposable, a collection of microfiction, and her work has appeared on The Rumpus, Pajiba and Word Riot, among others. Her book reviews and other commentary appear at Glorified Love Letters, and she is the co-manager of Electric City Creative.

17 thoughts on “Book Review: “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened” by Jenny Lawson”

  1. I adored this book.  But then, I love her blog, too.  And this book was very much like a mostly-organized collection of mostly-new blog posts that you can read without breaking the no-electronic-devices rule during take-off and landing.  And it was worth every penny!

    It made me laugh – so much.  And it also made me cry and commiserate and wish my life were just a bit more interesting (though without the scorpion infestation!)

    I want to hang out with Jenny.  And so will you.

  2. I’ve been a fan of hers since 2008 and her popularity seemed to have a little mini-explosion after the Beyonce (the metal chicken) thing. When I heard she was writing a book, I knew I’d have to have it. It was hilarious. I woke my daughter up with my laughing and I forced my son to let me read parts of it to him but gave up because I couldn’t stop laughing enough for him to understand me. Even the way she writes about her miscarriages and social anxiety and being accepted by Victor’s parents is funny, but in a more touching, sweet way.

    She had a book club going for it and I was so impressed with how much time and energy she put into interacting with her fans, especially knowing how hard that much social interaction is for her. There’s a reason that the level of love her readers have for her borders on obsession.

    1. I know, it IS impressive that she’s able to talk with everyone like that on her book tour, considering her anxiety. The on-camera/online stuff is one thing, but she seems to hold it together well in order to meet the people who have supported her.

      I loved the bit with her and the pillows at Victor’s parents’ house. “You don’t LEAN on the pillows!” haha

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