It’s not a Memoir

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In her new memoir, Tina Fey is always the butt of her own joke.

Bossypants

by Tina Fey
Illustrated, 277pages
Reagan Arthur/Little, Brown & Co.
$26.99

“It is an impressively arrogant move to conclude that just because you don’t like something, it is empirically not good. I don’t like Chinese food, but I don’t write articles trying to prove it doesn’t exist.”

Tina Fey’s recent memoir, Bossypants (Reagan Arthur Books, 288 pgs), has been getting mixed reviews. The New York Times gave it a favourable critique, noting that, “Bossypants isn’t a memoir. It’s a spiky blend of humour, introspection, critical thinking and Nora Ephron-isms for a new generation.” But Newsweek grilled Fey’s memoir, claiming “If a woman with Fey’s measure of success and cultural influence won’t give us the straight dope, then who will?”

I don’t really know what “straight dope” is, as I’m not pear shaped, balding, or a drug addict. But I assume Anna Holmes, the Newsweek writer, meant to express that Bossypants doesn’t represent women in a positive light. I disagree.

Bossypants is an enthusiastic and encouraging model for women looking to work in show business. “My unsolicited advice to women in the workplace is this. When faced with sexism or ageism or lookism or even really aggressive Buddhism, ask yourself the following question: ‘Is this person in between me and what I want to do?’ If the answer is no, ignore it and move on. Your energy is better used doing your work and outpacing people that way.”

Like the Qu’ran, Fey’s book is open to interpretation by the reader. There is a lot to laugh at, and the delivery is always well timed. But if read the right way, there is also much to be learned. The book is littered with self-deprecating anecdotes, ranging from kissing gay men to mountain climbing. Fey is always the butt of her own joke, and it creates a comforting feeling for the reader.

This isn’t a memoir, although it is labelled as one. Fey begins with her childhood, and ends with the present, but between then and now there is a lot of content that cannot be categorized on a timeline. With chapter titles like “The Secrets of Mommy’s Beauty”, “Remembrances of Being a Little Bit Fat”, and “Sarah, Oprah, and Captain Hook”, it is clear from the start that this book is scattered. It’s almost as if every thought that came to Fey’s mind was written down, regardless of proper chronology.

Because of this, any reader who is looking for a biography of Fey will be disappointed. But if you enjoy 30 Rock, and the style of its screenwriting, Bossypants is better aimed at you. Fey’s writing never falters, or gets boring. The jokes keep rolling, and it’s a fast read.

Bossypants is aimed at women. This is not a controversial claim. There are no helpful hints for men in the workplace, or advice for men trying to become more comfortable with themselves. But I would not discourage a man from reading this book. It is a helpful tool for understanding particularly crazy women, and where they’re coming from.

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