Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Furiously Happy

Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess)

Having read and enjoyed Let's Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) I knew I wanted to read this follow-up. Furiously Happy deals with a variety of subjects including but not limited to:

  • dressing up as a koala to hug a koala and then being told you can't hug a koala
  • zombie organs
  • how many goats are too many goats
  • all the reasons why Texan possums are evil. 

This book is a collection of essays, some of which deal with anxiety and depression, some touch upon what it's like to have chronic illness, some of which are just plain random and delightfully weird in content. There were lots of laugh out loud moments for me. Every now and then I would erupt into cackling and the nearest cat would pitch back its ears in protest and look at me like the human scum I was for interrupting a nap. To read Lawson is to see a human side of anxiety and depression which you don't get from textbooks and self-help guides where all the example 'true' stories seem colourless and constructed and based on half-shadow people. 

As this review is about something written by Jenny Lawson, I feel that a digression would not only be apt but also a requirement so here's a picture of the bookmark I used while reading Furiously Happy.

Whenever I get a card I like, the front gets cut off and turned into a bookmark. There's lots of blank space on the back for scribbling phrases I like from whatever I'm reading, and noting down the page numbers of the good bits. This bookmark was taken from a Christmas card and I assume the books titles are all made up. The number 42 appears on the bottom right hand corner, and if you can't think why that's a delight to me and worthy of note you need to read some Douglas Adams. There's one book up there that sticks out for me as being wrong. They all seem to have a winter or Christmas tie in except the red one nearly slap bang in the middle, Learn to Speak Pixie. What the hell is that doing there? Did someone mess up and put pixie instead of elf? That would make sense as the whole Father Christmas myth has him presiding over a tireless workforce of elves. But pixies? It's just plain bad research.

Anyway, here's some excerpts from the many page numbers I scribbled on the back of that card. Is this the point where I say 'spoiler alert'? Hard to tell if that's necessary as this isn't a fiction book with an actual continuous story but if you consider a spoiler to be quotes from the book then 'spoiler alert'.

Page xiii - yup, that's the level of entertainment we're dealing with in this book. Even the bits in the pre-numbered section are worth a read. There's a whole analogy paragraph on Bluebeard which includes the line 'you're holding my severed head in your hands'. I imagine that line sorted out the quitters from the committers pretty quickly.

Page 9 - essentially the main feature on this page is the cat with a (still) tinkling cat bell hanging out of its backside and Lawson chasing it with a pair of scissors screaming "LET ME HELP YOU!". That's comedy gold right there. Though not so much for the cat.

Page 74 - 'Because nothing says "welcome" like a surprise umbrella-wielding giraffe head staring at you with laser beams for eyes.'

Page 85 - "So I'm paying to have someone rip off my face and then shame me? It's like this was made for women. COUNT ME IN."

Page 240 - lots of lines on this page but I'll stick to:
'You learn to appreciate the fact that what drives you is very different from what you're told should make you happy'
'It is an amazing gift to be able to recognise that the things that make you the happiest are so much easier to grasp than you thought. There is such freedom in being able to celebrate and appreciate the unique inner moments that recharge you and give you peace and joy.'

There's also a reference to banana Popsicles dipped in Malibu rum on this page which sounds like an EPIC idea! I have the Malibu, and as I suspect banana Popsicles will turn out to be one of those things which is only available to buy in America I've Googled how to make them. If I weren't such a lightweight I'd consider a summer party where people could bring their popsicle and spirit of choice and we could have a rather messy, indecorous evening.

One of the essays on anxiety gave me an added idea for my own toolkit - build a pillow fort and hide in it. Can't find the page reference for that though.

Furiously Happy is both very funny and very sad by turns but it's well worth a read. Good for train travel as the essays are mainly short, perhaps not so good if you have a laugh you are a little conscious of and find hysteria on public transport demeaning. If you are the latter, I doubt this book is for you anyway considering the antics that Lawson gets up to.

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