Comedians Desus and Mero chat with USA TODAY’s Rasha Ali about their new book, “God-Level Knowledge Darts: Life Lessons from the Bronx.”
Books bring balance to writer and blogger Jenny Lawson’s life.
Lawson, also know as The Bloggess, has created a legion of fans with her quirky, candid and humorous musings on her life, including her experience with mental illness. All three of her books – “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened,” “Furiously Happy” and “You Are Here” – have been USA TODAY bestsellers. Her next book, “Broken (in the best possible way)” is due in April 2021.
Like most Americans, the coronavirus pandemic has affected every aspect of her life – and her mental health is no exception. Lawson candidly admits in an interview with USA TODAY that if COVID-19 wasn’t an issue, she would be getting more in-depth treatments for her depression.
Lawson says she probably would have sought out transcranial magnetic stimulation or perhaps consider ketamine, both treatments for depression. “But I just, I cannot make myself leave the house because not only do I have this fear of getting sick, but also I have a lot of auto-immune problems.”
Writer Jenny Lawson latest book, “Broken,” is set for release in April 2021. (Photo: Henry Holt)
So for now, Lawson is hunkered down in San Antonio, Texas, with her husband, Victor; her daughter, Hailey, 16; and her fur babies: dog Dorothy Barker and cats Ferris Mueller, Hunter S. Tomcat and Rolly. Oh, yes, and with a lot of books.
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One way Lawson has coped with depression is to turn to other authors who write about their own experiences with mental health, like Allie Brosh, best known for her blog and book “Hyperbole and a Half.”
Lawson read Brosh’s latest book, “Solutions and Other Problems,” before its release “while I was having my own depression,” she says. “There’s something about books like that that are like letters from people that are written specifically for you.”
“Solutions and Other Problems” just debuted on the USA TODAY Best-Sellers list at no. 4.
Books have also helped the writer cope with quarantining during COVID-19, particularly through her bookstore, Nowhere Bookshop, and her book club, The Fantastic Strangelings.
Interspersed throughout The Nowhere Bookshop are bits of decor that reflect Lawson’s quirky aesthetic . (Photo: Elizabeth Jordan)
When the pandemic first struck, Lawson was set to see her dream of opening an independent bookshop in her native Texas come true. Originally slated to open its doors to customers in mid-March, the Nowhere Bookshop has been limited to online orders and curbside service. “Technically, you could look at it and be like, wow, this is terrible,” says Lawson. But even with the delayed public opening, the bookstore has been a “magical” experience, she says.
That magic is made up of almost entirely by the readers of her Fantastic Strangelings Book Club. Started in January, just before the pandemic, the club has allowed the Nowhere Bookshop to stay in business during COVID-19 thanks to the more than 2,700 members who help to support the store through purchasing the book club selections. In addition to the book, club members participate in Zoom calls where Lawson interviews the featured authors.
One recent author was fellow humorist Samantha Irby, author of the USA TODAY best-seller “Wow, No Thank You.” According to Lawson, “I don’t think that there is anybody funnier in humor today. She is just so brilliant and so funny … whether it be a blog post, or a book or anything as I read it, I feel like I’m having a conversation with her.”
Authors, like Irby, talk with Lawson on a Zoom call for about 30 minutes answering such probing questions as “two weeks into a zombie apocalypse where would you be?” (Irby’s answer: “Kill me the first day!”) and “what is your favorite word in the whole world? (Irby’s answer: “Damp.”) The second half of the conversation features questions from book club participants.
Both the store and book club “saved me during all of this,” says Lawson. Thanks to the book club “there’s a reason why every day I have to go outside and spend an hour reading. Normally I would think, oh, that’s too luxurious. I should be working. I should be editing.” Instead “it’s totally okay to take a two-hour break in the daytime and read a book. It made such a difference in my mental health. … It’s just like completely escaping from your mind.”
What else is Jenny Lawson up to?
She also indulges in podcasts while walking Dorothy Barker. A current favorite is “The Poisoners’ Cabinet.” The hosts “drink cocktails and talk about poisonings, and it gets progressively drunker as they talk about these different poisoning cases – and it’s so good.” As for TV, a recent watch was “The Umbrella Academy” on Netflix.
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But for Lawson, books bring a more complete escape. With television, “I have to watch and at the same time be drawing, and still my head’s going in a different place, but with reading, you don’t have the ability to do that.”
Even before COVID-19, reading has always been the perfect escape for Lawson. “Reading is about exploring the world without having to leave the safety of where I am. It’s about like living a million different lives without having to deal with the utter exhaustion that comes with small talk.”
Now that Lawson is confined to home, “I’m going to find a shady place outside and have a great book … and have a big glass ice and have my dog. Instead of feeling like I’m stuck, it feels like I’m on a vacation in time.”
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