Excerpt From the Guardian Book Review:
On the front of Jenny Lawson’s book is a stuffed raccoon looking like the most thrilled guest at a surprise birthday party. Arms outstretched, mouth fixed in an ecstatic grin, this is a raccoon determined that the evening will go with a swing. He – Lawson tells us that his name is Rory – is much more than a charming novelty or a “wacky” talking point. No, Rory is Lawson’s personal happiness coach, a gurning reminder that, no matter how awful life seems, you always have the choice to be happy. Not mildly happy, or even mindfully happy, but furiously happy.
The “furious” bit is important to Lawson because it is a measure of the effort and determination that goes into trying to feel OK when you have a brain that is busy trying to kill you. Lawson came out several years ago as being “mentally ill” but what has given the Texan her particular appeal – her blog gets millions of hits a month – is that her illnesses are of a common or garden variety. She is not schizophrenic, nor even a little bit bipolar. She never hallucinates: if she thinks about how cool it would be to have monkey butlers, that’s because she also knows it’s never going to happen, not least because they’d eat all the peanuts before passing them round. In other words she has a perfectly good grip on reality, if reality is mostly a scary place where something very bad is about to happen. Lawson has been diagnosed as “a high-functioning depressive with anxiety disorder and mild-self harm issues”. In other words, she is in an abusive relationship with her own head. Many of us can relate to that.
Lawson’s first book, a memoir of growing up dirt poor in rural Texas, was a hugely popular hit in 2012 and sat at the top of the New York Times bestseller list for weeks. In it Lawson dealt obliquely with her mental illness, reframing it as the cultural by-product of her delightfully eccentric family. Her father is a taxidermist with an equal interest in living animals, and once sent her to school with a flock of turkeys that he insisted were “jumbo quail”. Her mother, meanwhile, had a habit of dressing Lawson and her sister in Little House on the Prairie smocking and sunbonnets, with the result that they resembled “the lesbian love children of Laura Ingalls and Hollie Hobbie”. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened was a bit like My Family and Other Animals, but ruder and with more stuffed bobcats.