I don’t own books; I have relationships with them. There are the books that I flirt with at the bookstore; they look intriguing but I’m not quite willing—or able—to spend the money necessary to obtain them. After I leave the bookstore, I will forget some, while others will stay on my mind. Next time I return, I’ll slip them off their shelves, open their covers and read a little. This can go on for several visits before I finally give in and buy the book. Sometimes I see a book and buy it immediately. When I get home, I can’t wait to open it up, or it goes on my shelf and is promptly forgotten. Some books, I buy out of sense of duty.
A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I were having a particularly bad day (in a moment of melodramatic passive aggressiveness I dropped my unabridged Webster’s Dictionary on my fluffy pillow, which is serious stuff). As we were running errands there was a certain type silence between us—the type of that only comes from two people who are worried about saying something utterly stupid. We had to stop at a local book store—I needed to order some graphic novels for a class I’m teaching in fall. As I was waiting, my husband said my name. I turned around, and he was holding in front of him a hardcover book with a picture of a mouse wearing an Elizabethan cape and ruff while holding a skull. The title of said book was Let’s Pretend This Never Happened.
“Yes, lets,” I said, as I grabbed the book. I opened it up and saw that the end sheet had a design showing animals setting up a modeling shoot. One of which was a badger with a camera. On the inside flap there was an excerpt from a book that mentioned a miniature donkey and a Teddy Roosevelt impersonator in a bar. As my husband pointed out in the car—the book was coming home with us even before we arrived at the store.
Over the next week as I read it, I would laugh, look at my husband, and he would say “Don’t ruin it! I want to read it too.” He even looked away when I tried to flash him a chapter title. The next week when he was able to start reading it, whenever I heard him laugh I’d ran into the room to discover which joke he’d found funny.
Among the humor, what I found interesting about Let’s Pretend this Never Happened, was how much of the book’s form seemed to be influence by blogging. The author, Jenny Lawson, is The Bloggess after all. Most memoirs that I’ve read, which I admit has been a relatively small number, tend to try to create a novelistic tone. There is a story arc to events described. If the dust jacket didn’t helpfully inform me that Let’s Pretend This Never Happened is “A Mostly True Memoir,” I would have assumed that it was a collection of personal essays that chart how the author has grown as a person, not a memoir. Each chapter feels self-contained. Also, the digression and foot notes strike me as something born out of blogging rather than traditional memoir writing. I’m half tempted to give this book to my creative nonfiction friends and see if their heads would explode, but I suspect that they would point out that Lawson is obviously influenced by so-so who everyone has read. They would also spontaneously start drinking tea with their little finger extended.
Ultimately, what I’m trying to say is that I really enjoyed Let’s Pretend This Never Happened without ruining any of the jokes.