Before 2008 I didn’t know much about Tina Fey. I only watched SNL intermittently before that time and watch less of it now. I knew her face from Weekend Update, and knew she was involved in 30 Rock, but had only seen bits and pieces of the show. Yes, I was one of those people who discovered her through her Sarah Palin impression, which was astonishingly good. All that has changed. I enjoy 30 Rock and have seen most of the seasons (thanks to the library for back-seasons).
Bossypants is Fey’s memoir, partly, sort of, depending. The book ranges from personal reflections to essays on various aspects of the media, beauty, and Fey’s feminist ideals. All of it is written in a captivating, laugh-out-loud style reminiscent of Dave Barry’s newspaper columns. Sometimes, however, it is difficult to separate Fey’s observations and jokes about an event with the event itself, leaving me wondering how true all the details were. Of course, that’s not really the point of a book like Bossypants.
The most startling aspect of the book is how similar Fey’s life has been to my own. Not down into the details, of course, but I too was the first child of two people who got married late and had children even later. I too was the awkward kid at school more interested in his imaginative landscape than his homework. Most substantially, one of the most profound experiences of my life was the time I spent with the theater kids in college, just as one of Fey’s most meaningful experiences was getting a job with her local theater company. That chapter (chapter 4) was one that I understood perfectly and which revealed Fey as something of a kindred spirit. Her sense of humor is (beyond the profanity) startlingly similar to mine, and her thought processes and observations about what goes on around her was something I could completely relate to.
I’m reasonably certain we would be friends in real life.
Bossypants is an unusual portrait of an unusual woman for many reasons. One of the most satisfying is that she makes no effort to present herself as an amazing person. She is up front and candid about herself and her flaws. In this sense, though the book might be more about Fey’s perception of reality than reality itself, that perception is honest, sometimes brutally so. The book finds its way back to honesty by a circuitous route, revealing more about Fey than a memoir of most other celebrities would. And that is ultimately what makes the book such a joy.