Sunday, June 15, 2008

Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster

The full title of this book is: Bitter is the New Black: Confessions of a Condescending, Egomaniacal, Self-Centered Smartass, Or, Why You Should Never Carry a Prada Bag into the Unemployment Office. It was our book club pick for June. We have yet to meet and discuss but several members had already read or started it at our last meeting and they overwhelming felt it was hysterical and a fun read.

This memoir describes about two years of Jen Lancaster's life in Chicago. We open with her in a Vice President position in business sales something or other. (I am sort of lost in the business world myself, since I was in the non-profit world when I did work outside the home.) She was young, cute, and very successful at her job, but ended up laid off after a corporate merger and 9/11. This left her VERY bitter. She tried for nearly 2 years to get a job with progressively less standards. She saw her opportunities, money and friends dwindle. She started a blog to entertain herself during the day (currently known as jennsylvania). Then her husband lost his job as well and they REALLY were in DIRE straits (according to her). She had to move to a non-penthouse apartment in a less desirable neighborhood, work for a temp agency (once). Eventually, her husband found a job and Lancaster tried her hand at writing (hence this book). They got back on their feet and there you have it.

Although, all of this sounds really depressing, it's not at all. Lancaster writes with a fun sarcastic tone and has absolutely no filter when it comes to anything. While her style of writing is entertaining, knowing this is a real person's life and that she actually thinks this way, annoyed me a little. I mean really, she was surprised when people looked at her Prada bag at the unemployment office and then rolled their eyes? Come on. Lancaster just seemed like such a snob to me. I think I would have thought this was more funny if I read it as a fiction book instead of constantly thinking, "Wow! She's really like this?!"

I guess I think of myself as a fairly practical person so it was hard for me to take in some of her shopping obsessions and her "need" for really expensive things. It just seemed so stupid to me that they didn't move out of their super expensive apartment long before they did and she just frittered her unemployment checks away. I just had no sympathy for her at all. So I say again, if you're a practical, hard-working, money-saving person, read this as a fiction book and you'll probably be very entertained (ala Confessions of a Shopaholic) and not annoyed.

I actually feel like I'm being a bit hard on the book and maybe I'm taking it a bit too serious. Normally, I wouldn't even think to second guess my feelings on a book, I would just write what I feel and be done with it, but I'd heard so many things about it being sooo funny. Maybe I had too high of expectations. I guess I'll be curious to hear what other book club members thought of it at our meeting next week. :-)


allisonmariecat said...

You know, I think the current memoir craze comes out of two things: 1. the success of reality TV and 2. publishers trolling blogs for new book ideas. I've come across several that seem similar to this one, and I've held back on actually ordering them because they sound potentially annoying. From your summary, I think I would be bugged by this book, too. I actually got irritated with Shopaholic by the third book, when she kept making the same stupid mistakes over and over, and that was fictional! The willingness of some people to embarrass themselves in public, on TV, in blogs, or nowadays, in memoir, is really mind-boggling to me.

Wow, I really got up on a soapbox there, huh?

Charlotte's Web of Books said...

I love Jen Lancaster! And if you read her next two books, one of the things I liked was that I could obviously see her growing as a person.

I love her! An absolute hoot!

Holly said...

Charlotte, thanks for stopping by!! I'm glad to hear Lancaster grows a bit. :-) It really was an entertaining read even if it annoyed me a bit.