What I love about Jen Lancaster is that you feel like she could be your best friend. Your scary, loose cannon, OMG-what-is-she-going-to-say-next friend.
And sometimes? Well, sometimes those people are the most fun in the world to be around.
In her second memoir Bright Lights, Big Ass, Lancaster focuses on the realities of life in the city — and how, specifically, Chicago is nothing like the sparkly, doors-wide-open, exciting New York City that “Sex And The City” character Carrie Bradshaw is so apt to describe. Reality includes annoying neighbors, ridiculous prices, people who don’t like pets and problems with mass transporation. All told with Lancaster’s trademark snark, of course.
While her debut novel Bitter Is The New Black chronicled her fall from success and wealth to unemployment and near poverty, her next memoir finds Lancaster in a better place — financially and emotionally. She’s married to Fletch, her longtime love, and living in a decent-ish apartment with her bevy of beloved animals. She’s sold Bitter Is The New Black and is eagerly awaiting its publication. Here, each chapter in Bright Lights, Big Ass is an ode to some aspect of life in Chicago — and is filled with anecdotes regarding her love of Target, Starbucks and modern conveniences. As I am also a huge fan of those things, Lancaster’s book read like a series of messages from a buddy.
Maybe it’s because I’ve seen this song and dance before, but Bright Lights, Big Ass didn’t “wow” me the way her debut book did. I snorted, chortled and laughed until I cried many times, but I wasn’t desperate to read portions of it aloud to my sister or boyfriend. With a second book in the Lancaster’s distinct style, settling in with her prose is like getting a long catch-up email from an old friend: you know it’s going to be full of good stories and fodder for the dinner table, but it’s probably nothing you haven’t heard before.
Without the biting wit made famous through her blog Jennsylvania, Lancaster’s memoirs would seem like a laundry list of whining. But she hasn’t become a New York Times best selling author without being funnier than hell. And she is: spit-take-inducing, compulsively readable and hilarious. And though she can also be erudite and cruel at times, she has a good heart — it’s just layered under a casserole of sarcasm, angst and elitism. But that’s totally fine, because as long as she keeps churning out the funny? Well, I’ll be reading.
Pick this one up as a stand-alone, if you like, but I’d recommend grabbing the books in order; it’s fun to see Jen’s progression. If you’re new to Lancaster, read them as Bitter Is the New Black; Bright Lights, Big Ass; Such A Pretty Fat; Pretty In Plaid; and, last but not least, My Fair Lazy.
4 out of 5!