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Book Reviews Review: I Can’t Believe It’s Not Better is a charming millennial memoir

Toronto writer and comic Monica Heisey writes the column ‘The Grown Ass Woman’s Guide.’

Paul Terefenko

Title
I Can't Believe It's Not Better: A Woman's Guide to Coping With Life
Author
Monica Heisey
Genre
Non-fiction
Publisher
Red Deer Press
Pages
234
Price
21.38

There has been quite a bit of discussion over the last while regarding who, exactly, should be writing memoirs. More specifically: Is there a certain life stage or fame level or threshold of accomplishment that one needs to cross in order to be deemed worthy of self-reflection outside of a "Dear diary" situation? That people directed this type of criticism at Lena Dunham's 2014 book is sort of mystifying given that Dunham has become a decorated writer/director/actress/influencer and bona fide industry honcho, all before reaching her 30th birthday (what could we possibly learn from her?). It makes more sense surrounding the related sub-genre of so-called "millennial memoirs" – quarter-life reflections from a cohort who are turning literature into the latest selfie stick. It sounds nauseating, but does it need to be?

Monica Heisey is a not-famous, not-yet-30 author of the new comic memoir I Can't Believe It's Not Better, an achievement that I'm assuming represents her most significant professional accomplishment to date. The book is a collection of essays, lists, quizzes and illustrations, all of which centre around the author's personal experiences and hard-won wisdom (See: how to survive a barf attack on a trans-Atlantic flight).

Heisey is a Toronto-based comic and writer who got her start composing a regular how-to column called The Grown-Ass Woman's Guide for a Canadian website called She Does the City. Advising her readers on topics such as talking shit, hangover maintenance and having big cans, the idea was never that Heisey was a capital-E "expert" on modern gal-hood, inasmuch as she was living it, contemplating it and attempting to draw a conclusion or two. ICBINB continues in this same spirit of self-discovery mined for broader insight both valuable (how to not be a jerk when you're breaking up with someone) and otherwise (what to wear when you're barfing on an airplane). Heisey is irreverent and evocative and knows how to spin a snappy yarn, all of which makes reading her book feel like grabbing a coffee with your bossy but charming BFF: not necessarily a monumental event, but certainly one of life's overlooked joys.

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Perhaps because of the well-deserved popularity of memoirs such as Night or Wild or The Audacity of Hope, we have landed on the notion that experiences ought to be extraordinary to be worth sharing, which is simply not true (if it were, most of us would make for the dullest of dinner party guests).

In both life and literature, revelling in the ordinary probably doesn't get the respect it deserves, which is not to say this book is for everyone (N.B.: I Can't Believe It's Not Better would make a terrible Father's Day gift), but just that maybe the more relevant question isn't who should be writing memoirs, but who should be reading them. To that end …

Should You Read Monica Heisey's New Comic Memoir: A Quiz Inspired by Monica Heisey's New Comic Memoir

1. What are your feelings on TMI?

a) Too much information – never! Too many ice cream sandwiches – definitely.

b) It's like people have completely lost the ability to distinguish between public and private material. Is a little decorum so much to ask for?

c) I just told my sexy waiter about the time I didn't make it to the washroom in time.

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d) Hell no! TMI is a concept used to shame women into shutting up. I'll talk about my privates whenever I feel like it.

2. Describe your current outfit.

a) In theory: pulling off pyjamas as chic daywear look (as seen in J. Crew catalogue). In reality: looking like creepy daytime pyjama person (as seen in Michael Jackson goes to court).

b) Suited up.

c) Crop top, body glitter, Bridget Jones underwear. Hiccup.

d) Tattoos and green bikini bottoms.

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3. Female-on-female friendships are …

a) Everything.

b) Between school runs and appointments with my personal Pilates instructor, who has time?

c) Sooooooo amazing. Like, seriously. [Sloppy hug] Let's go back to my place and listen to the Indigo Girls.

d) The subject of an excellent HBO series.

4. Recount your most passionate love affair with food.

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a) In university, I dated the delivery guy from Mama's Poutine, just so he would bring me free leftovers after his shift. We broke up after I was diagnosed with dairy sensitivity.

b) It's so pathetic when people use food to fill emotional voids.

c) I am booty-calling pizza at this very minute.

d) I once ate bread in the shower.

Mostly a): You should definitely read ICBINB. Monica Heisey is your spirit animal and will make you feel a lot better about the fact that you are currently trying to eat chips and dip in bed.

Mostly b): You are too old or anal or busy developing your personal branding strategy to read this book.

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Mostly c): You seem like you're drunk and should probably read this book if only to fully absorb the chapter on when it's time to switch to water. (P.S. Do NOT go home with that waiter!)

Mostly d): You are Lena Dunham, and you have already read ICBINB and loved it so much that you wrote a gushing endorsement, which now appears on the book's cover. You said it make you "keel over" with laughter, I hope in a figurative way.

Courtney Shea is a Toronto writer and a frequent contributor to these pages.

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If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

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