keep margaritas within reach this summer…

Hello EftRoU friends. We are starting something a little new. Our first review on a book. That’s right, a book. We want to say thank you to Michelle Despres for this great review… Enjoy!

Tina Fey Bossy Pants

Reagan Arthur Books - Bossypants

In time for the official start of summer, I offer you Bossypants by Tina Fey as this season’s first summer read: quick and easy without sacrificing substance, funny and lighthearted without being frivolous. Bossypants is nonfiction, which is a wise choice for people who may not want to keep track of characters and plot as they move from one summer activity to the next, such as carpooling to camp, jumping into the pool, and having to get up from the hammock to get another margarita. If your idea of a summer read is Atlas Shrugged, I applaud you, and you had better get to it.

For those without a television, Tina Fey is an actress, comedian, writer, and producer for both TV and film. She has received seven Emmy Awards, four Screen Actors Guild Awards, four Writers Guild of America Awards, and three Golden Globe Awards. Fey recently became the youngest recipient of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. She is probably best known for her time on Saturday Night Live (SNL).

I like Tina Fey. I think she’s smart, funny, and real. Thankfully, her book is too.

Fey’s goal is: “maximum book performance whatever your reading needs may be.” While a seemingly tongue-in-cheek goal, she actually succeeds in meeting it.

I expect that some readers will complain about the book being all over the place. In a way, it is. Fey reflects on childhood, family, dating, working, parenting, beauty, celebrity, and turning 40 in a well-organized text. The book is chronological without being a comprehensive chronology. It is autobiographical without being an autobiography. It is opinion and observation without being essays. It is comical without being a comedy. It is ok that it’s a jumble of genres.

Some readers will expect the equivalent of stand-up comedy. Yes, it is sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, but sometimes it elicits a knowing smile or an interested nod. It is ok that it’s more than just a showcase of wit.

I was entertained by humorous anecdotes. I was interested in the behind-the-scenes look at working on SNL and 30 Rock and at what a celebrity photo shoot is like. I was enriched by her sharing the lessons she has learned from the events in her life.
Early in the book, Fey introduces improvisation concepts, which was interesting in itself, and how they can be applied to everyday life:

1. AGREE: “Start from an open-minded place. Start with a YES and see where that takes you.”
2. YES, AND: “Don’t be afraid to contribute.”
3. MAKE STATEMENTS:  “…with your actions and your voice.”  “Don’t ask questions all the time.” “Be part of the solution.” And especially for women and men with low self-esteem, “Speak in statements instead of apologetic questions.” As Fey says, imagine your doctor says, “’I’m going to be your surgeon? I’m here to talk about your procedure? I was first in my class at Johns Hopkins, so?”
4. THERE ARE NO MISTAKES: “Many of the world’s greatest discoveries have been by accident.”
Fey’s management advice: Don’t hire “hotheads.” Hire “the most talented of the people who are the least likely to throw a punch in the workplace.”  You need to consider whether you want to work with “dangerous” and “unpredictable” people day in and day out. A lesson she learned from Lorne Michaels on the set of SNL: “The show doesn’t go on because it’s ready; it goes on because it’s 11:30.”

Her advice to women: “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.”  She also reminds women that “you’re not in competition with other women, you’re in competition with everyone.”

Her advice to working moms and stay-at-home moms: “Be kind to each other.” Fey was asked and declined to be “mother of the year” for a working mothers group and for a mommy magazine. Part of the reason is that she has no idea if she’s a good mother or not, and another part of the reason seems to be that she has advantages that other mothers don’t. I like that she admitted that the subject is messy and complicated. Fey’s child brought a book, My Working Mom, home from school. The working mom was a witch. Yes, a broom-riding, cauldron-stirring, black-cat-loving witch. I’m not a mom, but yikes.

Her advice to herself: “When Oprah Winfrey is suggesting you may have overextended yourself, you need to examine your (expletive) life.”

The two most poignant stories are at the end of the book. That’s all I can say. Well, look for the stories about her Greek mother working at the school and babysitting. Now, that’s all I can say.

Reading Bossypants felt like I was having a conversation, albeit one-sided, with a good friend. Fey’s tone is affable. She’s honest and appropriately self-critical and doesn’t take herself too seriously (see her chart about the stress levels of certain jobs). I laughed. I learned. And I accomplished all of this on one Saturday afternoon. (I made sure to keep margaritas within reach of the hammock.)

Visit your local library for this and other no-risk summer reads.

Bossypants by Tina Fey.
Little, Brown and Company, New York, 2011.
Hardcover, 288 pp, $26.99. ISBN 9780316056861.

Thanks Michelle for such a great review. I can’t wait for your next review.

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