29 May 2011

Jancee Dunn, aging gracefully

Former MTV VJ Jancee Dunn chased a fairly serious novel (2008's DON'T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME) with this collection of essays about getting old that can't help but keep bubbling up to the comic surface. Even when Dunn and her friend Lou are blankly contemplating their parents' eventual demise, they do so with the backdrop of a series of terrible Lifetime movies, as is their tradition, after snarking on the other shoppers at Whole Foods.

Dunn has more than made her peace with age; she tells her best friend explicitly in ...GETTING A TATTOO that she's prepared to embrace it, albeit in a gentle hipsterish way. Not for her the Red Hat Society; it's more about leaving boring dinner parties earlier and going on better vacations. And one thing she really does well in this collection is capture conversations like those -- I think there are three chapters of straight conversation. This device could be so tedious even for the most empty-eared eavesdropper, yet each one in the book feels authentic and revealing, not artificial or insidery. If two characters were having that dialogue in a fictional context, it would be entirely believable. (Was she taping? ...Hmm, unlikely.)

I found it interesting, in the department of publishing nerdery, that the paperback edition of this book is blurbed by Sloane Crosley, because Dunn is more of a prefigure to Crosley. Her first memoir, about her adventures in music journalism, came out in 2006; since then she's flown just below the radar, popping up now and then in magazines. What separates ...GETTING A TATTOO from Crosley's books is the unity of theme displayed here; having used her linear anecdotal material, here she hovers around a theme.

Origin note: I spotted this book in the Biography/Memoir section of my branch library while I was looking for something else. I knew Dunn had come out with a second memoir, and had enjoyed the first one BUT ENOUGH ABOUT ME when I snagged a copy for free while visiting Dunn's publisher in 2006.

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