Truthfully, I’m not sure what possessed me when I picked up Jen Lancaster’s Bright Lights, Big Ass, years ago. Typically, I don’t even like memoirs, I tend to gravitate more toward fiction. So, when I set out to pick out a book for this week’s post, I didn’t go in with any expectations.
But, man alive, I was certainly pleasantly surprised! I love Lancaster’s conversational style and snark. The structure of her book–with excerpts from (real?) emails/letters to her friends and others break up the anecdotal prose that make up the majority of the book. Lancaster, with her apparent sarcasm snickers her way through so many debacles, I found myself snickering along with her as I kept reading.
(In fact, Bright Lights, Big Ass reminded me a lot of Allie Brosh’s memoir Hyperbole and a Half [also recommend!] in that both authors are very transparent and relatable in their stories. However, I feel almost as though Lancaster is slightly more focused in that this book focuses on her life in Chicago during a short span of time as opposed to Brosh’s more eclectic set of anecdotes.)
I think the only think I would have changed with this book is make the timeline clearer. It’s fairly easy to tell that the majority of the book takes place circa 2005-2007 based off context clues. But specifically, I wasn’t always sure when these events were taking place. Then again, that could just be me being picky–if I know that events in a book actually happened, I like to know when they actually occurred. I also wouldn’t call it a “collection of essays” as described by the back cover–it’s far too casual for that genre.
Regardless, it’s well written, very descriptive, and very engaging. It follows the life of author Jen Lancaster as she navigates city life as a temp and aspiring/beginning author. Which, as an aspiring writer myself, was totally relatable and kind of helpful–reading about some of her struggles provided a reality check in a sense. That said, it was also just really fun to read.
Interestingly, even though Lancaster is a self-described narcissist, according to the book, I found that the way she wrote herself and her interactions with others made her seem quite human and fairly relatable. I also loved reading about the dogs, neighbors, and her family–they all had very unique personalities which added almost more credibility to Lancaster and her perception/description of the events cited in the book.
Overall, I would recommend this memoir. Even if, like me, you don’t typically like memoirs, it’s entertaining and a super easy read–I could barely put it down. This is (likely) especially good if anyone has recently moved to the city and has their own complaints about it: I could totally see a “Oh my gosh, same!” moment happening. It’s also a good book if you just need a nice little brain break from the monotony of everyday.
Hopefully this post was more exciting than last week’s… I’ll be posting on Ronda Rich’s The Town That Came A-Courtin’, so keep an eye out. As always, please feel free to send me suggestions for other books and I’ll add them to the list!