I have been meaning to read something by Jen Lancaster ever since her books were recommended to me by a coworker several years ago. I recently started reading her blog, Jennsylvania, starting with this post in which Jen Lancaster and Dave Barry interview each other. But it was this post — the part about the cats (scroll down) — that put me over the edge and sent me out to procure a copy of My Fair Lazy, the newest from Lancaster.
Jen Lancaster’s books are memoirs, but without all the heaviness that characterize many books of the genre. For one thing, she tackles life in snippets instead of sweeping eras. My Fair Lazy, for example, covers maybe a year and focuses on what Lancaster calls her Jennaissance: her adventures in culture (think opera, world cuisine, classic literature, etc) after too many years of watching reality TV.
Additionally, Lancaster is extremely witty. The book didn’t have me laughing out loud (though there was definitely the occasional involuntary snort or giggle), but man, was it fun to read. Lancaster writes with the kind of distinct style that makes you feel like she’s telling you the story over lunch or cocktails or something. I never got tired of reading her style of writing, and it never felt fake or forced the way some comedic memoirs sometimes come across. It was a great balance between narrative and wit. You take her seriously while at the same time being immensely entertained.
As for My Fair Lazy itself, I must admit I felt a little lost for the first 80 pages or so. This was the bit before she has the idea of undertaking a Jennaissance, when she’s sort of citing examples of pre-Jennaissance Jen, and to me it was entertaining but a little unfocused. Once the project began, though, everything seemed to fall into place, and I never felt lost again.
Lancaster takes the reader along as she learns about pairing wine and cheese (including the stinky, rancid ones), sees all manner of plays (nudity and dry cleaning film, anyone?), reads classics poolside on her Kindle, and gets lost in San Francisco’s Chinatown while on a book tour (all the while trying to avoid inadvertently purchasing a gremlin). Her goal is to acquire a cultural vocabulary that extends beyond the realm of Gossip Girl, America’s Next Top Model, and the rest of the reality TV lineup…preferably in time for the prestigious Authors Night held by the East Hampton library, which will be her trial by fire.
In short, My Fair Lazy is a witty cultural memoir that’s light without being fluff. Depending on your temperament and mood, you’re pretty much guaranteed to laugh (or at least snort!) out loud at least a few times. And as a bonus, it’s even studded with moments of genuine insight. I’ll be reading more of Jen Lancaster’s books.
Oh, and also? I’m totally adopting the phrase “Holy cats!”