I am a little—no, a lot—ashamed to say that after having lived in the Bay Area for almost eight years, tonight was my first visit to Book Passage, the premier independent bookstore in Corte Madera. I have been meaning to go, in much the same way that James Garner was forever “basically on [his] way to Australia” in Support Your Local Sheriff. And there was the time in 2007 when I crashed the Poetry for Water fundraiser at The Lark Theater after seeing it on the calendar of my SoMa Literary Review email a few hours before it started, not knowing that it was an event for people who had gotten tickets from Book Passage, because I thought it would be really cool to hear Peter Coyote read poetry in person. (It was really cool, and so was listening to Anne Lamott read one of her humorous essays and watching Nina Wise perform an interpretive dance, and I know this because the kind Book Passage staff member found a person in line with two extra tickets and gave them to us.)
So, what drew me into Book Passage tonight for a virtual stamp in my imaginary literary passport? None other than Jenny Lawson, also known as The Bloggess. If you are not one of the gazillion people who became a fan when her post about buying a big metal chicken named Beyonce went viral, you need a little more whimsy in your life. I had felt a bit smug as the link to And That’s Why You Should Learn to Pick Your Battles… rocketed its way across Facebook and beyond; after all, I had bookmarked The Bloggess in my Favorites, in 2009, after designer Jamie Varon told me she had designed the web site. And I lurked and loved her posts for a good two weeks before I stopped reading blogs altogether, because they reminded me that other people had developed good writing habits, which reminded me that I had not.
Jenny Lawson, who is on tour promoting her book, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir), is positively delightful! That she inspired me to sit down two hours later and write, when I have built a wall of writer’s blocks that would put Pink Floyd to shame, is truly saying something. Flanked by Copernicus-the-Homicidal-Monkey and Juanita Weasel, Lawson started by recounting how she might have inadvertently insulted Lisa Loeb this morning when she walked into “hair and makeup” before a live television interview, saw her with large curlers in her hair and—not realizing it was Loeb—exclaimed, “Bitch stole my look!”
Lawson is self-deprecating to a fault, proclaiming that she is proud to be a “misfit,” and she is grateful to her many fans who may or may not be misfits in their own way. She is at the same time candid, outrageous, and humble, tearing up with almost every “thank you” directed at the audience, and in response to the boy who did not ask a question, but said, “My abs hurt from your sparkling personality.”
Jenny Lawson wakes up famous every day, whether or not she is able to get herself out of bed—or the bathroom. She is an inspiration to writers and other misfits, and anyone else who would take “You can’t say vagina on CNN” as an invitation to find a colorful euphemism.
As an aside, in February, after a comedy show at the Impala Lounge in San Francisco, comedian Rachel McDowell told me that I was her “happy place,” because I was clearly enjoying her show and I exuded “positive energy.” So, Jenny, if you are reading this, I was the woman with sunglasses on her head in the seat that was perfectly aligned with the center aisle of the front group of chairs, about 35 feet from the lectern, sitting behind and just to the left—your right—of the guy wearing the black watch cap despite its being 85 degrees today. I hope I was able to be your happy place.
But not in a weird way.