Tuesday, August 2, 2011

REVIEW: My Fair Lazy, by Jen Lancaster

My Fair Lazy: One Reality Television Addict's Attempt to Discover if Not Being A Dumbass is the New Black, or a Culture-up Manifesto, by Jen Lancaster. Published 2010 by New American Library. Narrated by Jamie Heinlein. Nonfiction. Memoir. Audiobook.

Jen Lancaster is one of those guilty-pleasure authors whose books are always just a pleasure to read; I'm borrowing her phrasing here, as she acknowledges her guilty-pleasure status near the beginning of this entertaining book. She's made a name for herself with best-selling books like Bitter is the New Black, about being unemployed, Bright Lights, Big Ass, her continuing adventures in Chicago, and Such a Pretty Fat, about losing weight.

My Fair Lazy, her fifth memoir, documents her "Jenassiance," a rigorous program of self-improvement she undertakes with the aide of more worldly friends and acquaintances, and often accompanied by her good-sport husband Fletch. After realizing with shame that she doesn't know who Baudelaire is, she decides she needs to smartify herself if anyone is ever going to take her seriously. So she goes to the theater, tries new cuisines, learns about wine and reads important books in her attempt to make herself over, from the inside out.

As she's learning the ropes of high culture, she's also unapologetic about her love for the lowbrow end of things. She writes with touching candor about why she fell in love with "The Real World," and what reality television means to her and to us. Even after her transformation is well on its way, she stays true to herself. Her adventures in culinary exploration, vinoculture and the literary canon are fun to watch, and it's neat to see the positive way her project impacts her relationship with her husband and opens her mind in ways she might not have anticipated. The book is sort of one long string of self-deprecation combined with self-congratulation, as she both mocks her supposed ignorance and then tells us how awesome she is for doing something about it. It's funny. And she's funny- always.

She's still Jen Lancaster though, and there's only so far she can stretch, so if you're a fan from her earlier books don't worry that she's about to become someone else. She's still a strident Republican, still loves madras and still idolizes the rich, although she's willing to admit, after watching a wealthy man pick his nose at a dinner party, that money might not always equal class. But that's okay, because that's what makes Jen, Jen. Like many I've read her avidly for years and it's always fun to see what she's up to now. She's like the funny, whip-smart friend you can always rely on for a great story and a great time. Jamie Heinlein, the narrator, has read several other Lancaster titles and handles this one with humor and aplomb; she's expressive, funny and brings the text to life. It's kind of just how I imagine Lancaster herself would narrate the book.

On balance? Like all of Lancaster's books that I've read, this one is a good time and well worth a listen or a read at the beach or on the road. If you've read her before and liked her, you'll like this too; if not, it's a fine introduction to an entertaining humorist.

Rating: BEACH

FTC Disclosure: I did not received this title for review by the publisher.