Reviews in 200 Words

Archive for the ‘Memoir–Reviewed by Katy Welter’ Category

Bossypants by Tina Fey (audiobook)

In Memoir--Reviewed by Katy Welter, Nonfiction on July 15, 2011 at 12:55 pm

A book containing the words speculum and menarche, unless it’s gynecological, is written for women. Listening to Fey tell about girlhood through motherhood is pure delight: it’s like recounting your most embarrassing moments over a bottle of wine with your sister. You’ll laugh loudly on public transit, nodding yes, yes. But as much as it celebrates women, Bossypants is an homage to men—Lorne Michaels, Alec Baldwin, and one bad motherfucker, Don Fey.  Fey laments women’s low status in show business, and yet repeatedly underestimates herself. Like her famous doppleganger, Sarah Palin, Fey is celebrated in part because her gender is under-represented in her field .  Also like Palin, Fey’s success is indebted to men. Lorne Michaels chose her to be an SNL writer, to co-host Weekend Update, and to pitch a primetime television show of her own. She insists 30 Rock exists because of Alec Baldwin moreso than her. Fey feigns ordinariness and, if you’re still holding out hope for your own launch into stardom, then you might buy her plain Jane routine. Otherwise, you’ll just wish that she, like too many women you know, would own her talent and solemn determination—and bossypants—without qualification or apology.

-Katy Welter

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The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion (Guest Punch: Katy Welter)

In Memoir--Reviewed by Katy Welter on April 28, 2010 at 4:52 pm

After forty years of extraordinary marriage, Joan Didion’s husband slumped over the dinner table, dead of common cardiac arrest. Meanwhile, their daughter’s health declines gradually and terribly. Thus begins Didion’s year of introspection and research into both sudden and continual loss. The book is about dedication to writing as much as marriage. It reads like a movie, transitioning in time and setting, examining the life of two writers who worked within earshot of one another. Didion depicts grief with such poignancy that you’ll fear you’ve seen your own future (for months she wakes up alone in bed feeling the hollow aura that she and John have had a fight, only to re-discover he is dead). Yet, curiously, for each piece of universal wisdom, the book references an upscale restaurant, person, or locale, which most readers won’t recognize. Didion places these barriers as if to say, “You can know about us, but we are still different from you.” Because what could be more essential to marriage than its singularity? The conviction that you are one another’s one and only. Through meticulous autopsy, Didion tries to recollect this private world. Magical thinking, she learns, cannot resuscitate love. But memoir can preserve it.

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