Tina Fey’s introduction fools you into believing Bossypants will be a laugh a minute…

“If you are a woman and bought this book for practical tips on how to make it in a male-dominated workplace, here they are….no pigtails, no tube tops…If you bought the book to laugh and be entertained…Two peanuts were walking down the street, and one was a salted.”

But it’s more like a long-running Saturday Night Live monologue; sometimes it’s funny, sometimes not so much, and you want to turn it off.  With a stream of consciousness approach to her life, Fey sprinkles her memories with funny incidents – if you can wait for them.

But, if you keep reading, you’ll find those irreverent gems – those critiques of politicians, movie stars, racists, homophobics –  and everything else – nothing is off limits.  Fey’s tone is straight-man serious, goading you to wonder – did she really mean that?  Of course; if she doesn’t, she provides an asterisk to let you know.

Her comments on domestic life will sound familiar to some…

“I’m a working parent and I understand that sometimes you want to have a very productive Saturday to feel that you are in control of your life, which of course you are not.”

The book warms up as it progresses, almost like a comedy routine.  After getting past the essential groundwork, the comedian gets to the real stuff.  Her lists are the funniest:

  • the secrets of Mommy Beauty
  • remembrances of being skinny
  • remembrances of being fat

If you are an SNL fan, you will appreciate the insider jokes and backstage humor, with the best being the skits with Tina Fey as Sarah Palin.  If you missed the first one, she provides the script, and it is just as funny read as watched.  It would seem a good place for her to end the book, but she doesn’t – going on to the birth of her child and plans for the second.

Tina Fey is funny; more importantly, she is smart.  You can read her book for its humor, but it has more if you can insert the Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert affinity for telling the truth with a laugh.

When Everything Changed

Once upon a time when women never wore pants in public and went to college to get an MRS,  jobs were often offered to women on condition that they would either not get pregnant or quit if they did.   I actually remember such an offer.

Gail Collins, New York times op-ed columnist writes about a time not so long ago, but alien to young women professionals today in When Everything Changed.

Beginning with the sixties, and segwaying quickly into the seventies and beyond, Collins has tales of women – thrown out of court for wearing slacks, competing to best the world record for ironing, vying for limited options for jobs (forget career), and more.    Famous names sprinkle the insults endured in the history – most still out there, e.g., Sandra Day O’Connor, Nora Ephron, Phyllis Schlafly…as well as great quotes…

“A good man is hard to find, so they hire women.”

” ‘For a woman to make decisions, to triumph over anything, would be unpleasant, dominant, masculine.’  Later in the decade, the original Star Trek series would feature a story about a woman so desperate to become a starship captain – a post apparently restricted to men – that she arranged to have her brain transferred into Captain Kirk’s body. The crew quickly noticed that the captain was manicuring his nails at the helm and having hysterics over the least little thing.”

To be honest, I skimmed over a lot of the book. It may seem more like “This is Your Life” if you lived through the last thirty or forty years, but Collins, whose columns in the Times I always read with relish, has a great table of contents – ending with “Hilary and Sarah…and Tahita.”

Hard not to laugh or cringe when the book gets to the present – all the way to Sarah Palin as VP candidate.    Glad the book was published before Palin got to be a cheerleader on Dancing With the Stars.