I Might Regret This
Grand Central Publishing
I Might Regret This, the new book by Abbi Jacobson, co-creator of the TV show Broad City, begins with an essay that would fit nicely in the annals of Jewish neurotic writing (see: Woody Allen, Nora Ephron, et al.). The essay is called “What’s the Worst That Could Happen?” and in it, Jacobson lists all of the catastrophic fates that could befall her if she dares to write a book.
These range from “all the pages somehow get numbered incorrectly!” to “no one buys the book!” Luckily for Jacobson, most of her fears are warrantless; the page numbers seem to be in order, and her last book, Carry This Book, became a New York Times bestseller. This one will no doubt sell briskly as well.
But one of her concerns is this: “Even though the book will be copyedited and proofread, my terrible grammar and lack of sophisticated vocabulary will shine through.” And that particular worry may be justified, unfortunately.
The book’s conceit is that the reader is traveling along with Jacobson as she goes on a cross-country road trip for three weeks, from L.A., where the Pennsylvania-raised comedian now lives, to Asheville, N.C., from Memphis, Tenn., to Marfa, Texas and beyond. It’s a post-breakup come-to-Moses kind of trip, with plenty of time for self-reflection and grappling with challenges like solo dining, staying at a B&B as a single person, and discovering truth and heartbreak during a cheesy aura reading in Sedona, Ariz.
Interspersed with the comical, self-lacerating memories and life-is-deep road-trip observations are illustrations of albums listened to along the way, movies watched and food consumed. It adds to the sense that we’re just peeking into Jacobson’s diary/sketchbook after she gets back home.
Much of what Jacobson writes about is extremely relatable, especially for young women, and the breezy, on-the-move feel keeps us reading. But the writing itself is disappointing, and the punctuation, at times, is either nonexistent or confusing. There are inconsistent tenses and run-on sentences. Much of the book reads as though it was being dictated to Siri as Jacobson drove. There’s no artistry to her words, no turns of phrase that surprise or delight. It’s just thoughts. On a page.
This is a shame because Jacobson has a lot of interest to talk about — love and loss, insecurities and the kinds of growing-up confusion that pretty much everyone can relate to.
Some of her takes are hilarious: She has a rant about saucers that is just priceless. There’s also plenty of fun Jewish stuff in the book and a few Philly references that are deeply satisfying. And some sentences are so funny and trenchant, you want to put them on an ironic sampler and hang it in your kitchen: “It’s not that I’m not happy, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not happy at all.”
Yet much of the book just doesn’t read well if you’re a person who cares deeply about language. At one point, Jacobson asks, “Is there a point in time when you stop feeling like you’re 18?” I can’t answer that for sure, but I can say there is a point in time when you stop writing like you’re 18. Jacobson hasn’t gotten there yet.
Fortunately, the book is available as an audiobook, and that’s the best way to experience it. If you’re a fan of Broad City, you’ll love it in either format, but if you’re coming to Jacobson new, you’ll find the audiobook much more engaging. It’d be perfect for your own road trip, even if you have to drive all the way to Marfa.