Book Review: Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang

BY JOSIE JONES | MARCH 23, 2010 7:30 AM

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* 1/2 out of *****

I was prepared to have a spring break that everyone and her mother envied. I would become best friends with a white-sand beach in the Caribbean and spend my days dreaming of a shirtless Kellan Lutz. The cherry on top of my delicious vacation sundae would be reading Chelsea Handler’s newest collection of personal essays, Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang, while nearly getting a third-degree sunburn.

I learned the hard way that sun spoils the ice-cream treat — starting with the cherry.

Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang can be described as both disappointing and lacking any literary substance. A combination of the two should have created a preface to warn readers of the irrelevant words on the pages they were about to turn.

Released March 9, Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang explores the twisted lifestyle the author leads. Whether it’s a series of e-mails between siblings or a detailed joke played on her CEO boyfriend, Handler fails in her attempt to create an essay with any significance.

An unfortunate element seen throughout the collection is a shortage of focus. In the essay “Chunk,” Handler begins by describing Southwest Airlines, then quickly switches to discussing a friend’s bachelorette party that ends in a wrestling match. This somehow leads Handler to illustrate the process of adopting a new dog and rambling about purchasing a mini-horse to keep at her sister’s place. It concludes with Handler’s friend asking to be put in her will so that he gets her dog, Chunk.

Handler does offer a few essays that highlight her comedic and literary abilities. “The Feeling” is Handler’s account on discovering eroticism at the age of 8 and realizing that she couldn’t get enough of herself.

“When Life Hands You Lemons, Squeeze Them into Your Vodka” follows Handler in an attempt to inform her unreasonable parents on the importance of following trends while persuading them to buy her a Cabbage Patch Kid.

Both essays — the first two in the collection — provide a sensible plot and outbursts of laughter.

However, a component missing from many pieces in the collection is a sense of purpose. After reading most of the essays, I was left asking myself, “What was the point in reading that?” The essay “Grey Gardens” is a perfect example. Handler takes the unfortunate reader through a lazy Saturday of eating a variety of Lean Pockets and crying hysterically while watching Definitely, Maybe and Sex and The City: The Movie.

Being a fan of the comedian for years, I admit I may have been holding Handler to a higher standard than the collection provides. Her two previous books — Are You There Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea and My Horizontal Life: A Collection of One-Night Stands — are brilliantly crafted and hilarious. They even established Handler as a New York Times bestselling author.

Despite her previous success with writing, Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang leaves readers empty-handed and wanting more from the multitalented author. The only benefit I can attribute to reading the collection is my fabulous tan.

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