Amy Schumer’s quasi-memoir is composed of stuff that would be better off posted on Facebook.
The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer. Gallery Books, Simon and Schuster, 336pp., $28.
by Joe Daley
The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo is the sort of book that I imagine many people envision themselves writing at one point or another. Fortunately for us, most people don’t follow through on such silly whims.
The star of Inside Amy Schumer and Trainwreck, Schumer is riding high on success. Despite overblown accusations of plagiarism and subsequent internet vilification, her star continues to rise. And so it makes sense, at least from a financial perspective, that she should strike while the iron is hot, and tell her life story while people are lining up to listen.
The catch is that The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo isn’t Schumer’s life story. It’s not really a narrative at all: the volume is pretty much a scrambled series of journal entries pertaining to major events in her life, peppered at random intervals with her musings on gym etiquette or boxed wine. The occasional chapters worth reading, those that are touching, frightening, or thought-provoking, are lost amid Schumer’s obsession with trying to be hilarious about minutia.
Compounding the problem is that Schumer is not all that concerned with stylistic best practices. Why are several independent sentences enclosed in parentheses? I do not know. Why does Schumer alternate between single, double, and triple exclamation points? A mystery. Why does she put things like “JKJKJKJKJKJK” in print? It’s your guess. But I will hazard that this book was not given the close revision one might expect of such a high profile release. There are no typos or glaring grammatical flubs, but it is the furthest thing from tight writing I’ve seen in a while.
This editing chaos could have been saved by Schumer’s wit. She is a genuinely funny comic, with a significant body of work that has earned her our attention. But somehow, she falls completely flat in print. Potential laughs are sucked out of punchlines because she can’t help herself — she has to explain her jokes. What’s more, she does not separate comedy from serious matters; sarcasm and self-deprecation frequently end up directly adjacent to sincerity. And, to top it all off, Schumer recycles material to the point of absurdity: how often can you get away with deprecating your appearance by comparing yourself to an ugly famous person or fictional character?
There is a small saving grace in The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo: Schumer’s willingness to talk about the difficult episodes in her life. She is not afraid to share her harrowing experiences with domestic abuse, her father’s battle with multiple sclerosis, or her mother’s homewrecking. But Schumer squanders these moments by not spending enough time with them on the page. The chapter dealing with her escape from an abusive boyfriend (who pulled a knife on her) is only two pages longer than the chapter where she bravely comes out as an introvert, i.e. someone who likes to spend time alone. Schumer doesn’t focus on what really matters in her life in this book, so why should readers waste their time?
Joe Daley is a senior at the University of Massachusetts Boston. He is an English major focusing on alternative literature.