Tuesday, September 15, 2020

"Welcome to the United States of Anxiety: Observations from a Reforming Neurotic" - Jen Lancaster

I started Jen Lancaster's "Welcome to the United States of Anxiety: Observations from a Reforming Neurotic" with great enthusiasm.

Having never before read Lancaster's books, I was instantly engaged by her transparent personality and witty, engaging humor that drew me in and made me eager to continue reading in hopes of discovering a new author and an indie title that I could recommend to others.

To be honest, in the opening pages of "United States of Anxiety" I was even thinking perhaps I'd discovered my next 5-star read after a far too lengthy period of 3 and 4-star reviews.

However, what was initially engaging and witty quickly became a tedious and laborious read splattered from beginning to end with personal anecdotes, episodic humor, and occasional oddball theories about anxiety based largely upon her own experiences and sourced with an obvious agenda intact.


Suddenly, my hoped for 5-star review was plummeting rapidly before, as the book wound down, settling in at a wobbly 3-star experience while dancing on the 2-star border thanks to book-ending essays on the Kardashians, overly lengthy observations about parenting (for which she has no actual experience), and relentless internet-bashing that makes me wonder if maybe she's experienced one too many critical comments on her social feeds.

While there are many who praise Lancaster's previous titles, based upon my experiences with "United States of Anxiety" the first impressions are settled and I wouldn't begin to approach anything else.

"United States of Anxiety" is an Amazon First Read during this month of September 2020 in advance of the title's planned October 1st publication date. I'd hoped it to be a sign that the book was being released on my birthday (Happy Birthday To Me!), but instead I'm just feeling grateful that I've managed to get this much older without getting this neurotic.

Truth be told, "Welcome to the United States of Anxiety" is not an awful book. Creatively, but loosely, based in the world of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, Lancaster explores the world of contemporary American anxiety and does so largely through her own societal lens. There will be those who identify with her lens and there will be those who've followed her writing long enough that they'll find her weaving together of humor and social insight to be, well, insightful.

It's an intriguing idea to tie the current state of our emotional and psychological affairs into the current state of Maslow's Hierarchy in American society. The problem is that Lancaster gets in her own way here and what really is an intriguing idea never really gets fleshed out (maybe I should say "Fletched" out?) sufficiently enough. The real problem, I suppose, is that "United States of Anxiety" feels like a first-time author and, in fact, it's not.

While "United States of Anxiety" is a well sourced title, one can't help but get the idea that Lancaster cherry-picked her sources to fit her own pre-conceived observations much like the internet argument over politics or religion that never goes anywhere. The book's final forty pages are filled to the literary brim with Lancaster's actual sources, theoretically quite impressive, but in practice as tedious and meaningless as much of the book itself.

With more neuroses than humor, "Welcome to the United States of Anxiety: Observations from a Reforming Neurotic" offers more problems than solutions and never quite gels into quite the path out of the quagmire that Lancaster believes it to be.

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