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Review: Are You There Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea

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“I have no doubt that my mother’s pregnancy with me was an accident. Mostly because on several occasions, she told me I was an accident.”

Are you there Vodka? It's me, Chelsea by Chelsea Handler - Penguin ...
*SPOILERS AHEAD: Read at your own peril*

Chelsea Handler is a force to be reckoned with.

I picked up this book in my school library to take a break from revising for A Levels and haven’t let it out of my bedside table since. It is the drinking woman’s pick-me-up. It is what pulled me back and flung me into student life, drinking and dancing and perfecting a quick, dry wit that could cut a man down.

This is such an easy book to dip in and out of. I usually prefer a story that I can sit and wolf down in one go but this was perfect for a busy schedule and some light relief.

It reads a bit like a long-winded stand up set and that makes it brilliant. Are You There Vodka? is one of the few books that genuinely has me laughing out loud. From her father, ‘Bitch Tits, to her lover, he of the red pubic hair (‘a clown in a headlock’), Chelsea doesn’t hold back in her humour. Some of it starts to cross a line and, as a reader, you narrow your eyes a little and think about googling whether this is okay to laugh at or not. But there are several points when I gave a nervous giggle before I remembered no one else could see the politically dodgy joke she’d just made and then I was howling.

“Then a homeless man with a dog approached us and put his hand out. This happens to be something that I have a real problem with: homeless people with pets who approach you for food when they have a perfectly delicious dog standing right there?”

Her father, Bitch Tits, might be my favourite person in the entire book. “Slow, deliberate, and confused” is Chelsea’s best way to describe her father coming down the stairs and it’s possibly the best way I’d describe my own dad trying to navigate a remote control.

Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea | Book by Chelsea Handler ...

The only time she really bonds with him in the book is when she’s stoned in Costa Rica and the parallels to my own dad are weirdly present. The first time we didn’t argue in months was in Vancouver when I smoked a joint and dad got seconds off the balcony. Magical. 

“The problem with the suspenders my mother bought for him is that he hasn’t adjusted the straps since he got them. So instead of attaching somewhere around his midsection, the suspenders clip onto his pants three inches below his nipples. Now picture the suspenders attached to sweatpants. This vision is what first led me to coin the term ‘camel balls’.”

Her brief stint in jail might be the funniest part of the book. She’s arrested for drink-driving and, of course, her reaction to the officer’s question, “Have you ever done this before?” while she touches her nose and tries to walk in a straight line is, “Yeah. Plenty of times.” (Ah, to be drunk and that confident.)

Her adoring relationship with alcohol and her sarcastic outlook genuinely inspire me to give less of a shit and enjoy myself. Fantastic.

The fact that this is a memoir based on Chelsea Handler’s life might just be the best thing about this book. She ruthlessly analyses every one night stand, her family, her antics and her constant struggle between dieting and low-key alcoholism. It’s everything you want to read right before you pack your things and trek off to university or with a cocktail in the sun somewhere hot and cheap or sitting at home feeding a baby dreaming of what other women are up to.

Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea by Chelsea Handler

I would keep this around for light reading whenever I need a laugh (or to remind myself that I’m actually not that bad of a human being). It’s tucked away in my bedside table for when the news gets too serious and I need to read about Chelsea and her boyfriend with a lapful of bright orange pubes. 

“And just like Dubya, every time I’ve tried to put forth an effort, I am reminded that my only true strength lies in drinking.”