For a long time, I assumed memoirs meant depressing stories of drug addiction and people lying to Oprah about their lives, which really didn’t sound all that interesting to me. But then I realized that funny people write them too.
Other than Tina Fey’s Bossypants, I still hesitated at exploring this genre because it didn’t have zombies or dragons in it, but with the rise of podcasts and Twitter it has become much easier to gain access to the voices out there with some pretty entertaining and amusing stuff to say. That’s how I came across Aisha Tyler’s Self-Inflicted Wounds: Heartwarming Tales of Epic Humiliation earlier this year, and it’s also how I found Kelly Oxford’s memoir as well.
Those familiar with Oxford’s brand of humor, sarcasm and exaggeration will be right at home with her writing that comes at lengths greater than her average tweet. Let me give you an example with what to expect: “At twelve, I found a lump under my nipple an thought it was cancer until the doctor convinced me it was just my book developing.” Or how about this: “The ex- rodeo clown’s hands were totally normal, except for the great amount of shame they held in them.” Did you chuckle? You should have. And if not then you are just too dead inside to probably enjoy what Oxford has to say.
The draw to Oxford’s book is right in the title in that you don’t quite know if you should believe the words she puts to paper. After all, a lot of great stories, some ridiculous in their own right on the basic level, can often be taken to the next level by exaggerating about the circumstances. Just ask my mom. This doesn’t mean that her stories are necessarily overflowing with lies (though some of the name dropping might not hold up to the doubtful gaze of a fact-checker), but rather that she sets up these stories to sound like the fictional narration of a character rather than a real person recounting a story from their own life.
This feel to the writing works perfectly in the earlier part of the book as she is speaking from the mind of her younger self, telling stories of her life about her dedication to a modeling career and how she peed her pants in public, but the effectiveness of her voice wanes a little bit when she moves to stories of her adult life. Not by much, but I missed the childhood stories as I moved further into her life. Not that these stories have suddenly become boring or anything, but I found myself a little less willing to go along with every exaggerated or questionable detail because she no longer has the excuse of time on her hands to the same extent as for stories from decades ago. Or maybe I just don’t care for pot smokers…
Complaints aside, Oxford’s style of storytelling creates quite the enjoyable compilation of stories inspired by her life. I say inspired because I question the level of truth, but that’s not a bad thing. After all, everything, including stories, is perfect when you’re a liar.
Final grade: 3.5/5 Follow @BewareOfTrees