I probably should not have read this memoir, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, right after The Sound and the Fury. It’s light, and sometimes funny, but after Faulkner, it felt far more stupid than funny. Sadly, something as difficult as Faulkner could never become a bestseller today, but Lawson’s memoir made it to the top. The title says ‘a mostly true memoir.’ What exactly does that mean? Have we a new genre of memoirs that might or might not be true stories? James Frey should have thought to put ‘mostly true’ on the cover of A Million Little Pieces.
I’ll start with what I didn’t like about this book. I hate how Lawson talks to the reader, especially when she comments on her own writing and tells us what her editor said about it, almost like she’s cueing us to laugh. It feels sophomoric—and insulting. I also didn’t care for her raunchiness. It felt forced and unnecessary. I always tell my writing students that it’s fine to swear in a story as long as it adds to the mood and helps define a character. But using the f-bomb 50 times doesn’t add much to Lawson’s voice, especially once we’re acquainted with it, which only takes about 3 pages. I found most of her stories (this isn’t much more than a collection of strange stories from her life) rambling, heading nowhere specific. The book has little direction, except to make the reader wonder if all this really happened. I kept feeling like its main point was to outdo Jeanette Walls in the I-Can’t-believe-this-crazy-family genre of memoirs. Except Walls is a much better writer.
But there were some things I did like, and I even laughed out loud a few times. Once she clarified that she has a pretty severe anxiety disorder, I felt that the book gained a framework that was missing for too long. I did crack up at the scene of Victor’s Halloween party where he forbid her to talk about anything controversial among his conservative work colleagues, but when she was stuck in conversation with a guy dressed as John McCain who launched into “a tirade about Obama stealing all of our guns” (this being Texas), she panicked and forgot all the ‘off limits’ subjects—politics, divorce, death, heroin, sex—biting her tongue to remain silent as Victor cringed from across the room. Alas, her mind roller coastered around and when it landed, she blurted out a story about almost being stabbed by a serial killer. Victor panicked. And it went downhill from there.
So we get some funny stories and some funny lines. I liked the stories about her mismatched relationship with Victor much more than the stories about her childhood, but it’s clear by the end that she’s not done. And since she’s an active blogger (others have commented that her blog is much better than this book), I’m sure another “mostly true memoir” is on the way. But I doubt I’ll hang on for another ride. (nonfiction–I think)