Bossypants

Bossypants

BossypantsBeing told that something is the most hilarious book ever is a sure-fire way to make it not. Hence the reason I’ve until now missed the Bossypants boat. (Well, that and because the freakish, hair man arms adorning the cover. Shudder.)

I figured recently that enough time had passed for me to not have unreasonable expectations of Tina Fey’s memoir—Fey is, after all, a woman so incisively intelligent I could watch YouTube videos of her smacking down ‘legitimate rape’ all day.

I’ll not deny that I found the first half of Bossypants, which charts her growing up, a little slower than the half that covers the most recent (AKA 30 Rock and Sarah Palin) stuff, but that’s possibly because I’m simply more interested in the latter. Regardless, the book’s printed testament to Fey’s unbridled brilliance. And to her breathtaking, fist pump-inspiring honesty and humility.

Fey’s coined the term ‘Blorft’, or ‘Completely overwhelmed but proceeding as if everything is fine and reacting to the stress with the torpor of a possum’, a term I hadn’t until today been able to voice but with which I well familiar. I now determined to use it (and attribute it, of course) widely.

Fey also openly admits to her mixed emotions and indecision about having a second child and the difficulties and guilt she faced not mastering breast feeding. How many writers do you know would offer this footnote, which at once raises fraught, worthy issues while also adding a self-deprecating, I-know-this-is-a-first-world-problem twist:

I know it’s bullshit that I say ‘babysitter’ instead of nanny. What I have is a full-time nanny, and I should be roundly punished for trying to make it seem like the teenager next door comes over one night a week. But I don’t like the word ‘nanny’. It gives me class anxiety and race anxiety. And that I why I will henceforth refer to our nanny as our Coordinator of Toddlery.

The work that catapulted Fey to worldwide fame and into our consciousnesses is undoubtedly her Saturday Night Live Sarah Palin, a woman I consider to be an abomination but that Fey is in her book surprisingly kind to. Fey also wrote some of these massively watched, massively lauded SNL skits. My favourite is:

Gwen Ifil
Governor Palin, would you extend same-sex rights to the entire country?

Gov. Sarah Palin
You know, I would be afraid of where that would lead. I believe marriage is meant to be a sacred institution between two unwilling teenagers.

One of the others she didn’t write but delivered with genius panache includes:

Tina
What’s the difference … 

Amy
Lipstick.

Tina
between a hockey mom … 

Amy
Lipstick.

Tina
and a pitbull?                                               

Amy
Lipstick.

Tina
(BEAT)
Lipstick.

More than being a fantastic writer (as if that weren’t enviably enough), Fey’s also supportive of and generous to other writers, one of whom wrote this 30 Rock gem I’ve been espousing all day:

Liz
Oh, thank God. It was terrible. I went to her apartment. I don’t think she has a toilet. I saw my future, Jack.

Jack pours Liz a drink and hands it to her.

Jack
Never go with a hippie to a second location.

I could continue listing examples and espousing love for Fey’s work. Really, though, any reviews I could offer of the book have been more than amply and more articulately covered by the testimonies on the first page (literally the first page!). The Observer wrote:

There are some hugely funny bits, and some inspiring bits, and some nerdishly interesting bits, and some bits that read like essays in The New Yorker. There’s lots to enjoy, particularly if you are as I am, a Tina Fey fan girl.

The Evening Standard said:

It is Fey’s gift to be clever and human at once. Bossypants manages to be self-deprecating without being winsome […] Everything she has done has been on equal terms, but without ever turning her back on what it means to be a woman. How do I love Tina Fey. Let me count the ways …

So let’s say that I won’t do what someone did to me and tell you that Bossypants is the funniest book ever. It’s not. But it is really very good. I will say, though, that Fey’s book’s more than funny. It’s smart, it’s sassy, it’s startling, and it’s, as the Big Issue review said: ‘at once surprisingly deep and deliberately light’. I recommend you read it.

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Fiona Crawford

Fiona Crawford is a freelance writer, editor, blogger, proofreader, and voracious reader. She regularly appears as a book reviewer in Australian BOOKSELLER+PUBLISHER magazine. Fiona is also (unfairly) known as the Book Burglar due to her penchant for buying family members—then permanently borrowing—books she wants to read herself.