Category Archives: Memoir

Review: Pretty in Plaid by Jen Lancaster

plaid1Title: Pretty in Plaid: A Life, a Witch, and a Wardrobe, or the Wonder Years Before the Condescending, Egomaniacal, Self-Centered Smart-Ass Phase

Author: Jen Lancaster

Genre: Nonfiction Memoir/Essay; 384 pages

Publication Date:  May 5, 2009

Publisher: National American Library (NAL)

Rating: 4 Bookmarks

If you’re anything like me, you have a Santa Claus-sized ledger in which you record book titles that other bloggers recommend.  If this is the case, please add Jen Lancaster’s Pretty in Plaid to the top of the ‘Nice’ list. 

Lancaster has been likened to “David Sedaris with pearls and a supercute handbag”, and her latest memoir weaves a hilarious retrospective highlighting fashion highs and lows over the last four decades.  Entire essays are devoted to size-5 Jordache jeans, odious Brownie uniforms, and the edgier Girl Scout uniforms.  (I donned both and can attest to the faux pas that was the Brownie Beanie.)

Lancaster takes the mundane and spins it into a giant, literary confection of equal parts humor, hubris, and habiliment.  This book should come with a Surgeon General’s Warning printed on it–Reading this book should be done only in private and may induce:

  • laughing until your mascara runs down your face in twin, black rivers
  • laughing until you snort (Swine flu be damned!)
  • laughing yourself into a wheezy, cartoonish fit
  • laughing yourself into hyperventilation (as your husband frantically dials 9-1-1 for help)

Maybe you’re in need of a good laugh or you’ve been meaning to pick up some nonfiction for a reading challenge–either way, here’s the perfect vehicle!

Lest you think I’m being paid to write such a glowing review, I will say that the book starts off with a few missives I wasn’t barking mad about. Additionally, the footnotes may get a bit tedious for some readers–having to glance down two or three times on one page–but beyond those minor quibbles, this book has already become one of my favorites.

You can catch Jen on her nation-wide book tour, kicking off tomorrow.  She’ll be in New York on Thursday and I hope to be there (with pearls on).  Thanks to Kate and Melissa for the galley!

Review: Here’s The Story by Maureen McCormick

brady1Title: Here’s The Story: Surviving Marcia Brady and Finding My True Voice

Author: Maureen McCormick

Genre: Personal Memoir; 274 pages

Released: 2008

Rating: 1.5 Bookmarks

 

Like many kids, I grew up watching The Brady Bunch (in reruns) and admit to having a crush on Peter.  I wasn’t very keen on Marsha; I preferred the middle sister, Jan, because she seemed more personable.

When I spotted this book at my library, I snatched it up, immediately flipping to the photographs.  On a whim, I borrowed it and hoped for an entertaining and dishy read.

I was disappointed on both counts.  I found myself wanting to take a red pen to the book to excise whole pages (and chapters) where the book dragged and Maureen McCormick waxed poetic on snorting whole bags of cocaine, which left her strung out for days.  

Her writing was serviceable, but the story meanders so much that it’s as if she’s writing about living 500 years instead 50. 

McCormick aired lots of dirty laundry when it came to her family–her father’s infidelities, her mother’s hoarding tendencies and syphilis, one brother’s drug addiction and mental illness, another brother’s mental handicap.   

She wrote about working on the set of The Brady Bunch, her fling with Greg (Barry Williams), but mostly she complained about the “ghost” of Marcia Brady following her when she auditioned for other roles.

In 1985, McCormick’s drug use reached a fever-pitch and she began to cast about for help.  She began to pray to God for a sign of His existence.  

McCormick was walking with friends down Westwood Boulevard, “…when suddenly and without warning (McCormick) was thrown to the ground.  Literally thrown…a force pushed from behind…and two hands reaching down from the sky toward (McCormick’s).  It was Jesus.”

McCormick was so inspired by her epiphany that she became a Born Again Christian.  At church she met her future husband who helped her down the long road to come to know her true self.

The rest of the book details McCormick’s efforts to get clean, her religion, the birth of her daughter, Natalie, the death of her mother, and the renaissance of her celebrity thanks toVH1’s Celebrity Fit Club.

Overall, the book left me uninspired and sadly shaking my head, uttering those three words Maureen McCormick’s been running from since the early 70s: “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia.”

A Review: Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher

wishful_drinking Title: Wishful Drinking

Author: Carrie Fisher

Genre: Personal Memoir; 156 pages

Released: 2008

Rating: 2.5 Bookmarks

I’ll preface this review by saying that my husband is a huge fan of the Star Wars movies.  By default, I’ve seen said movies about 1,241,938 times which prompted me to borrow this book from the library. 

Carrie Fisher is funny.  Who knew?  The material for this memoir was taken from a one-woman show she wrote and performed at the Geffen Playhouse in 2006. 

The memoir is a quick and amusing read.  Fisher dishes on life as a daughter of  Hollywood royalty (parents Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher), but isn’t afraid to let her flaws and foibles hang out for all to see.

I laughed out loud during her discussion of her father’s penchant for adultery and remarriage.  Betty was his third or fourth wife.

…he meets and marries Betty Lin. She’s from China…and they’re happy for ten or fifteen glorious years…but Betty passes away.  But don’t worry, he’s not alone for long because now he dates all of Chinatown!  He does this partly as a tribute to Betty and partly because he has had so many face-lifts that he looks Asian himself…”

Star Wars fans will get a kick out of Fisher’s description of working on the movies, including the part where she calls George Lucas a sadist for making her wear a hairstyle that added 20 pounds to her already-round face. 

Fisher doesn’t hide her substance abuse issues or her electroshock therapy experiences.  The book has a friendly, chatty tone, as if Fisher is just talking you up at the local coffee shop. 

A quick and entertaining read and not the typical weighty tomes of other celebrity memoirs and autobiographies, add Wishful Drinking to your To Be Read pile, especially if you’re a Star Wars fan.