Bitter is the New Black

Monday, February 21, 2011

Bitter is the New Black
by Jen Lancaster

I’m in the middle of War & Peace and Jude the Obscure. Both are powerful, beautifully written books, but my mind needed the literary equivalent of some junk food. Hence Bitter is the New Black, which makes no claims to be a classic masterpiece.

Jen Lancaster’s memoir is an unflinching, yet deeply funny, look at herself and her over-the-top life. She is the embodiment of why I avoided sororities like the plague in college. She’s mean to everyone around her, always wants to be the center of attention, spends money like there’s no tomorrow and generally thinks she’s better than everyone on the planet. That being said, she can be hilarious and she understands that she is all of the above. She’s proudly proclaims, throughout the book, that she’s a “huge bitch.”

For the first half of the book I just couldn’t get past Jen’s general attitude towards those around her. Somewhere along the way (after getting laid off) she seems to recognize that humility isn’t a bad word and she becomes tolerable. She absolutely has a strong voice and a really funny way of describing things; I understand how she got a book deal after writing her blog. She’s personable and I felt like I knew both her and her husband Fletch.

Bottom line: Did I like reading Jen’s snarky memoir? Yes. Would I want her as a friend or co-worker? Absolutely not.


Kristi said...

I totally understand. I need some junk too! I've read so far this month War and Peace, Oliver Twist and Remains of the Day and my brain is revolting!

I love your bottom line! People like her drive me nuts in real life, but I can see how her snarkiness would make for a great book. I've been wanting to read one her's for a while.

Monica said...

Hi there,

Just popped in to say I'm enjoying your blog. We both prefer the classics but allow in some 'lesser' works for balance.

Alex (The Sleepless Reader) said...

I also do that! After reading The Grapes of Wrath I needed to go on a chick-lit diet for weeks to get my mojo balanced :)

Enbrethiliel said...


I don't mind unlikable characters written by authors of the calibre of Thomas Hardy and Leo Tolstoy, but I find I can't stand them in books that are "literary junk food." If I wouldn't want someone for a friend or colleague, I wouldn't want to read about him unless the book were really, really freaking good.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Kristi - Sometimes my brain gets overloaded and these books are the perfect cure.

Monica - So glad you found me. I checked out your site as well and it's wonderful.

Alexandra - Grapes of Wrath, now there's an upper. I needed a break after that one too.

Enbrethiliel - I agree with that for fictional characters, but this one worked for me because it was nonfiction. She was talking about herself and was willing to show herself in an unpleasant light.

Enbrethiliel said...


*smacks self on forehead*

How embarrassing is it that I completely missed that this is a memoir? =P

Now I'll have to think about whether I'd want to read about someone being a friend or colleague to others, if I didn't want him for my own friend or colleague. Hmmmmm!

Jenners said...

I think she is really funny, but I agree with you -- she might not be the best friend or co-worker! I've read about 3 of her books. They're all pretty funny. A nice little treat in between heavier reads.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Enbrethiliel - It made a difference to me. You'll have to let me know what you think if you decide to read it or something similar.

Jenners - One of the reasons I wanted to read this was because I kept seeing reviews of her work on your blog. You have great recommendations!