Goodreads Review: Nothing is Wrong and Here is Why by Alexandra Petri

Four star review, originally posted here on December 21, 2020 during a mass-review of pandemic audiobooks.

[DISCLAIMER: I’m catching up on months worth of Audiobook reviews, so writing this quickly.]

I hadn’t bothered to read the blurb on this before downloading it. I’m not sure if I’d read the blurb on her previous book, either. I have been reading Petri in the WashPo for a couple years now and know that she is BRILLIANT and HILARIOUS and I’m ready to read absolutely anything she writes. When I picked up her first book, I was, like many people, slightly surprised to find a complete lack of political material. This is, after all, what her column is. Instead, we had fun stories from a super dorky girl in her 20’s. This may have disappointed some people, but not me! Reading Petri is like looking in a mirror (reading in a mirror?). It’s all fantastic.

Grabbing this book, I was expecting more dorky girl in her 20’s stories. Instead, we have a collection of her most scathing WashPo columns (plus apparently some new stuff, I’m learning as I only now bother to look at the blurb). Not what I expected, but I was definitely still NOT disappointed. This is the material that had me fall in loe 3ith Petri’s voice in the first place. Some of these essays I remember reading when they first came out. In particular, the POWER BUDGET (which I must have reread a million times when it first came out), and You Cannot Do This to Brent Kavanaugh. Less funny, but no less stunning or powerful, were many essays about sexism and sexual assault that every woman will be able to relate to. It was unexpected to, in the middle of this comedy book, hit some of these serious topics with all the humor stripped back. This was very effective. I think one of them is her just saying “I am tired.” And after a whole book of straining to find the funny in the terror, we the reader feel that, too. Yeah, we’re tired, too. We get it. So very tired.

Because many of these essays were written in response to something happening in the news the week that the column was originally published, some chapters contained a quick reminder to the reader of what, exactly was going on. People, it’s been a WILD few years!!! I often went “Oh yeah! THAT was a thing!” What was especially impactful in the audiobook version was the fact that usually I thought we were already in Petri’s scathing parody, only to find out we were actually in a direct quote from a senior government official. Absolutely terrifying. And comic gold.

That was the greatest stength of the audiobook version. The biggest drawback, or rather, missed opportunity, is that I kinda wish that we’d heard this in Petri’s own voice. For novels or nonfiction, yes, absolutely get a professional actor. But for memoirs or personal essays, I want to hear the author. The actress was completely FINE. She did a good job. But she sounded NOTHING like the dorky humorist behind the words. Petri sounds like me. I want to hear HER, the REAL PERSON. Or, if employing actors, I would have lived a different narrator for each essay; one that fits that particular essay. Simple example: POWER BUDGET! It’s written to sound like it’s written by A TOTAL FUCKING BADASS ALPHA MALE PEW PEW PEW PEW!!!! So that’s the voice we should have had. The fantasy tale of how to navigate the mystical labirynth to submit evidence to the FBI needs a Tolkien voice. Etc.

Those critiques are minor. Petri is brilliant and we all need to bow at her feet.

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