Noun. Smart books for smart ladies; or the brilliant archenemies of plain (often read: bad) chick lit.
Greetings and welcome to this, our first installment of Gadchick Lit. I'll be your host on what I hope will be a brilliant tour of some smart, witty, interesting books by cool, female writer-types. I’m going to start with a book I found in equal parts compelling, ridiculous and heartfelt (maybe compellingly ridiculous?): “The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee” by Sarah Silverman.
Warnings: Offensive language is pretty much a staple of every chapter. I’d even go so far as to say it accounts for a third of the book’s subject matter. There’s also frequent drug use, sex talk and pretty much every bodily function. Also, jokes.
Why Read It: Despite Silverman’s Hollywood stardom – birthed in the whimsical halls of Saturday Night Live and followed by an adolescence on Comedy Central – her story is not just one about her career as a comedian, actress and musician. Her journey begins with a Jewish childhood in New Hampshire, and it isn’t what you’d expect; her world growing up is marked by family tragedy, chronic bedwetting (bet you thought it was just a catchy title, huh?) and an extensive history of anxiety. All of this somehow occurred before repeatedly making an ass of herself in a professional capacity, and somehow becoming simultaneously the focal point of vitriolic detestation and loving public appeal.
Make no mistake, however, that it is in these potholes on the road that make “The Bedwetter” such a compelling read. Silverman owns up to her mistakes – even the ones she won’t apologize for – and recognizes how they shaped her as a comedian. She admits, while the reader watches, that there have been a lot of weak points that could have ended everything, had she not risen to meet them.
Let me also say how extremely refreshing it is to find a comedic lady voice that isn’t overly steeped in “woman troubles:” the easy topics for female comics such as Aunt Flow, the search for The One™, or the making and birthing of children. Instead, these are passing fancies as she works to create engaging, bitingly funny stories out of bigger issues like race, suicide, mental disorders and religion (also, lesser topics like hate mail and getting punched in the face. I won’t spoil what happens, though). Sarah writes:
“At some point, I figured that it would be more effective and far funnier to embrace the ugliest, most terrifying things in the world--the Holocaust, racism, rape, et cetera. But for the sake of comedy, and the comedian's personal sanity, this requires a certain emotional distance. It's akin to being a shrink or a social worker. You might think that the most sensitive, empathetic person would make the best social worker, but that person would end up being soup on the floor. It really takes someone strong--someone, dare I say, with a big fat wall up--to work in a pool of heartbreak all day and not want to fucking kill yourself. But adopting a persona at once ignorant and arrogant allowed me to say what I didn't mean, even preach the opposite of what I believed. For me, it was a funny way to be sincere. And like the jokes in a roast, the hope is that the genuine sentiment--maybe even a goodness underneath the joke (however brutal) transcends.”
Lessons Learned and Awesome Take-Aways: “Make it a treat” – Sarah’s mantra for moderating the things that you enjoy the most in order to make them more worthwhile. This was a big takeaway for me, especially from someone as hugely successful as this author living in a world where attitudes are usually, “If you can afford it, you better enjoy it now as much as you can before someone takes it away.”
“Unvisited tombstones, unread diaries, and erased video game high-score rankings are three of the most potent symbols of mankind's pathetic and fruitless attempts at immortality.”
– This really stuck with me. Because it is, sadly, very, very true. I miss you, Miss Pacman.
On a final note, and I won’t say this for all books, but I recommend picking up the audio version of this book. Sarah Silverman’s performance is absolutely worth it and brings a spirit to the book that really puts it all together nicely. So go ahead and treat yourself.