Originally published: 2011, US
277 pages (read on Kindle)
Rating: 3 = Worth a Try
If pop culture is any indicator, we love to know about celebrities’ lives. In Bossypants, Tina Fey gives readers an uncensored, hilarious look at her life including her time on SNL, the development of 30 Rock, and personal stories from her life. C’mon, you know you want to know more…
Bossypants isn’t a straight-up memoir but it does move in mostly chronological order through Fey’s life. She begins with the story of how she entered the “real world” through a coloring experience in kindergarten and ends with a bit of an anxious meditation on what her future holds. Bossypants reads like a collection of short stories or essays on specific moments of Fey’s life, while other parts are glossed over and summarized, and the ideas these experiences give her.
Tina Fey is a hilarious woman, as evidenced by her comedy and her interviews. And she is relatable.
Craig Ferguson interview for Bossypants, 2011
The book has a brash, honest tone (much like Fey herself) that I find quite funny. In the chapter titled “What Turning Forty Means to Me” Fey says only:
“I need to take my pants off as soon as I get home. I didn’t used to have to do that. But now I do.”
This humorous, true, self-deprecating tone continues throughout the book as Fey describes uncomfortable but realistic and relatable teenage stories. She tells about the awkwardness of communication when she prepares to get her first period and as she gets ogled for the first time. I suppose these specific stories are most relatable for women, but really Fey is writing for a female audience primarily since she tells personal stories about being a woman. Men can and should certainly read this book too, but I’m not sure how they would handle the parts about growing up as a teenage girl—would they relate to the embarrassment or suddenly understand why girls were so weird when they were teenagers?
Aside from the tone, Fey uses countless pop culture references. Working in the entertainment business, these are probably easy to think of and they don’t feel forced. One of the best uses of these references is the chapter titled “The Mother’s Prayer for Its Daughter” (interesting wording, right?):
“First, Lord: No tattoos. May neither the Chinese symbol for truth nor Winnie-the-Pooh holding the FSU logo stain her tender haunches.”
“Oh Lord, break the Internet forever,
That she may be spared the misspelled invective of her peers
And the online marketing campaign for Rape Hostel V: Girls Just Wanna Get Stabbed.”
Fey also does a great job discussing the oddness of the moment in her life where she impersonated Sarah Palin. She discusses hate mail, reviews, and meeting Palin herself with full acknowledgement of this surreal experience and using her honest tone.
Things I Could Do Without:
This is the first “pop fiction” book I’ve read in a long time. By pop fiction I mean that it is created for a broad audience and is easy to read and easily consumable. These are not necessarily bad things (a large audience is great for memoir), but they are just different for me. I find this type of writing a bit forgettable due to its easy consumption, but Fey does try to make it memorable. If you are used to pop fiction, Bossypants will not be a difficult read for you, and you may even find the essay form a bit scattered.
The other big issue for me is that I wanted more. There are some parts of her life that Fey glosses over, some of the more famous parts, that I wanted to know more about. I’m not sure whether this is simply that she and I are interested in different parts of her life or it’s something else. While the stories about growing up and her family were interesting, I wanted more about SNL than there was.
If the idea of reading Tina Fey’s musings on her life appeals to you, and you want a light read, Bossypants is for you. Read it, enjoy it, and carry on.