Friday, 7 April 2017

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

If you put Jenny Lawson in a cage match up against Dostoyevsky, Dostoyevsky is going down! I don't say that just because he's dead and isn't in any shape to fight, although that is undoubtedly the case. No, I speak from experience.

To wit: I had Furiously Happy and The Brothers Karamazov on the corner of my desk for most of the past month. Every lunch time, I'd get up and have to decide anew which one I would read that day. Would I be virtuous and continue slogging my way through a 900-page book in which I was on page 500 and the murder referenced on the back cover hadn't even happened yet? Or would I give in to the book that I wanted to read, that didn't tax my wrists with its sheer weight, that made me laugh out loud so hard every lunch I'm sure most of the people in the building complex where I work think I'm missing a few marbles?

I'll let you guess which one won.

I finished Furiously Happy quite happily and consigned The Brothers Karamazov back to the library, uncompleted. I don't know who did it. I only vaguely even know what "it" is. Move over, Russian classics! There's another book in town. And this one has a delighted taxidermied raccoon on the cover. I'd like to see you do that, Dostoyevsky!

(I should also state that while I was reading this, I'd loaned my copy of Let's Pretend This Never Happened to a coworker, and she came in every morning telling me which hilarious bit she'd read the evening before.)

Furiously Happy feels more personal, even, than Let's Pretend This Never Happened, probably because it's closer in time. Lawson is frequently letting people in on recent and ongoing issues with her mental health and body, and there's a vulnerability there that makes the humour sharper and more poignant.

But, of course, there are also stories about someone sending her a knitted vagina, and and a trip to see koalas in Australia while dressed like a koala, and more amazing discussions with Victor. It's so funny, and yet it's so jagged around the edges in a very good way, because the humour doesn't mean that the difficult bits aren't there.

It is exactly the sort of book where you read it voraciously, and know full well that it'll make you look slightly unhinged in public as you laugh while trying to eat soup and almost cause a catastrophe. (Just me?) Where you can't wait to get back to it every day. Where, when put up against The Brothers Karamazov, it's an easy choice.

Sorry, Dostoyevsky.

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