Aug 262009
Authors: Savannah King

Tact is overrated, or so says Jen Lancaster.

In the collection of real-life essays, “Bitter is the New Black: Confessions of a Condescending, Egomaniacal, Self-Centered Smartass, or Why You Should Never Carry a Prada Bag to the Unemployment Office,” Lancaster chronicles her adventures as a woman who thoroughly lacks “the internal firewall which keeps us from saying almost everything we think.”

Unfortunately, Lancaster’s tendency to snark her way through daily interactions with people tend to make her come off as, well, a condescending, egomaniacal, self-centered smartass (albeit a hilarious smartass).

So of course, no reader is terribly surprised or too sympathetic when life throws her a curve ball. Lancaster and her equally sarcastic, though infinitely more patient and understanding boyfriend, get laid off from their high-paying jobs.

Lancaster goes from getting $350 haircuts every two weeks and “worshipping the Holy Trinity of Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom, and Neiman Marcus,” to being evicted from a “ghetto apartment” in only two years.

Destitute or not, Lancaster’s propensity for wackiness remains the same.

Her escapades range from persuading a homeless man to trade his hot Prada briefcase for some wasabi peas (which, depending on legal issues, Lancaster says she may or may not have passed off as crack rocks,) to accidentally booking her wedding in Vegas during its annual porn industry convention.

During her transition from wonderfully wealthy to painfully poor, Lancaster charms her way into your heart despite her caustic commentary and haughty attitude, both by finally learning a lesson in humility and kindness and by blurting out the thoughts everyone wishes they had the guts to say.

It’s hard not to slowly fall in love with Lancaster’s paranoid, loud, entertaining and truthful personality. Even if a reader doesn’t, they will still be forced to admire her straightforward outlook on life.

Her fall from the arrogant high-life to a humble real life is straight out of a moral storybook. It imparts not only clear perception and humor, but a serious life lesson in an engaging series of essays.

On the book, Lancaster describes her work as a modern day Greek tragedy, defined as “a story in which the central character, called a tragic protagonist or hero, suffers some serious misfortune which is not accidental and therefore meaningless, but is significant in that the misfortune is logically connected. . In other words, the b***h had it coming.”

Book reviewer Savannah King can be reached at

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