Friday, August 17, 2012

Powell's Event: Jenny Lawson

Earlier this week I went to Powell’s to hear Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess) read from her memoir Let’s Pretend This Never Happened. I reviewed the book back in April but as I don’t read her blog (gasp!) I had lost track of how it did. Silly me not to know that Lawson has captured the cultural zeitgeist of our times or to put it more succinctly: bring me your OCD, freaked out, depressed, overweight, anxiety ridden masses because I’m just like them only I’m so damn funny that my book has been on the NY Times Best Seller list for over 15 weeks. Rude, you say? Hell, Lawson says this kind of stuff about herself in her blog every week.

The reading started at 7pm so I thought arriving at 6:45 was reasonable. The only event I camp out for is Bruce Springsteen concerts but, as I mentioned above, I badly misjudged. Here’s what I walked into:

I never even made it into the store but had to stand behind the last row of chairs next to a couple where the wife was vibrating with excitement. Or so I thought. I asked when they had arrived and the man said 5:30. Really?! I mean, I’m glad people are buying books and reading, I am, but this is not literature or even well researched non-fiction. This is a woman opening her head and spewing the contents. It also means that the people in the front row arrived the day before.

The buzz continued to build as did the crowd behind us. I noticed the woman next to me getting more and more agitated, rolling her eyes and shaking like a cow being led into the branding shed. Finally, she turned to her husband and whispered, “I have to go. I can’t be here. It’s too much. There’s too many…I have to go.” And off she dashed. Did I mention that Lawson lovers are a highly strung, delicate bunch? Well, they are. Hubby hung out for 5 more minutes and then bowed out as well.

I don’t wear a watch and had turned my phone off so I had no idea what time it was but was quite interested as to how the crowd would respond when Lawson appeared. And that’s just what she did…appear. Empty space and then Jenny Lawson just standing next to the podium. And rather than shrieks, cheers or applause the crowd sighed. There was a real religious vibe to it—like a sighting of the Virgin Mary. They had hoped and prayed and she had appeared.

Here’s all you need to know: for such a brash, ballsy, vulgar, no-holds-barred chick, she has the soft clear voice of a little girl and seems genuinely befuddled at and appreciate of her success. And not to profile, but she doesn’t often put pictures of herself on her blog so with all her OCD and anxiety issues I had her pegged as a whippet but she’s not.

Enough of my insights, I know you’re just here to read what Lawson had to say.  Before starting her reading she announced that her anti-anxiety meds had not kicked in yet so she was going to be a bit jittery until they did. Then she read the Ex-Lax chapter of her book which is hilarious so even though I’d read it before I laughed out loud throughout the reading. Namely, because it is so incongruous to hear a woman with a Cindy Lou Who voice use the ‘f’ word as a comma. Then it was time for Q&A.


Have you named your Pegasus yet?
No, I have not but I’m leaning towards Liza Minelli. Although someone suggested Pony Danza.

What does Hailey (her daughter) think about all this?
I have given her so much material. I’m thinking there’s going to be some sort of tall-all by the time she’s nine. I plan on suing her. “None of that is true. Damn it, it’s all true.”

What has your biggest surprise been with the success of the book?
The most surprising thing is the success itself. What’s really amazing is that the book took off in such a wonderful way, that no one expected and what has been really remarkable is that now you have all these people coming to these signings and they’re like, “You have a blog? Really? I didn’t know you had a blog. I found your book.” And then they’ll come to these signings and be like “Oh my God, I’ve found my tribe. These people are just as crazy as I am.” And you know if you look to your left or to your right you know that one of these people has Xanax for you.” And that’s been kind of the most wonderful part, the community finding itself and seeing people make friends.

Did you move to blogging and writing to accommodate your RA?
No. I started writing when I was a kid because I have a really severe anxiety disorder and so I couldn’t talk when I was a kid; I was crazy shy. This was before people realized that was an actual issue and do therapy so I started because that was my only way to talk basically, to keep a journal. I started writing this book 11 years ago because I wanted the story of the family for the children I might have one day and then I started blogging after that because I was having a really hard time writing the book. Then I came back to it and what was really helpful is that I started the book first so I was able to keep all my favorite stories for the book itself rather than sharing it on the blog because I think when you get a blogged book you get a  lot of rehashed stuff  and I was really happy that 90% of this was brand new stuff.

How do you deal with the people who don’t like you? And then the people who REALLY like you?
I would say the people who don’t like me don’t matter. I would like to say that they don’t matter because who cares about people who don’t care about you but they don’t matter because I go into ym blog and I change their comments. That’s one of the great things about having a blog is that it belongs completely to you so if someone comes if someone comes in and they just  disagree because I have tons of comments on my blog and they say “You’re stupid” I’m like “OK, whatever” because really there is nothing you could say that I haven’t already said probably much worse so that’s for the most fine. But recently I had someone say “You should be forcibly sterilized” because I was on reddit and anytime I’m on reddit like immediately a million men go down and hop in. Very male dominated. I don’t like them very much. Because I can tell if it’s a first time comment and if ti is I know they’re not really a part of the community and so I change their comment to “Oh, I want to be more like you” and they come back because they want to see how you’re going to respond and then they say, “I never f’ing said that” and I change it to “I wish I could wear your skin.” By the fourth time you do that, they never come back again. It’s kind of awesome.

As for the people that do like me it’s great because they come over to get their book signed and they’re shaking like me and I’m like “This is awesome. I’m not the only one. I can share medication with you.”

So they’re both good. They’re both entertaining. 

Have your meds kicked in?
Yes, my meds have kicked in, can’t you tell? And can I just say? You’re all gorgeous! You’re like movie beautiful where they shoot everyone through a Vaseline covered lens.

What did you do today?
I went to the other Powell’s. I walked there because I needed to get  out of the hotel and I found my book and was like, “I wrote that book” and the person standing next to me was like, “Oookkaaay” and I was like ‘Pretty cool. Me and my one book’. I picked up a copy of Bitch magazine because we don’t have that in Texas because we’re super conservative but I opened it up and they wrote a review about me and it was like awesome and it was mostly okay so I was like I need to buy this magazine . Then I walked back to the hotel holding it out with the Bitch in front of me, like ‘yeah, Bitch. That’s right.’


Abby said...

I read this on your other blog and aside from the event itself, I was so drawn in my your writing. You are really so talented at these things!

Her visit sounded like the recap I've read of others in terms of what she said and how she's answered questions. She certainly has a cult following!

Catherine said...

Abby- I can't believe I was so remiss that I forgot to include this- some woman asked her to sign her baby. Yes, her infant child. Like conferring a lifetime of blessings or something. It got funky.

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