Abbi Jacobson’s ‘I Might Regret This’ an exciting and original memoir

Monday, December 3, 2018 - 4:10pm

Abbi Jacobson

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“I Might Regret This” is the kind of book that doesn’t come along very often. Freshly heartbroken from her first love, Abbi Jacobson — of “Broad City” fame — sets out to drive from New York to Los Angeles, hoping the change of pace and scenery would both distract her and give her insight. The book she wrote about this experience isn’t literary in any traditional sense; it’s not really about language or plot. Instead, it’s messy and rambling. It feels unedited in the best way.

“I Might Regret This” takes a few chapters to settle into. Jacobson throws convention out the window, and it’s sometimes hard to keep up with the breakneck pace of her mind. At one point, for example, Jacobson recalls filming “6 Balloons” and being unable to hit breakaway glass with a set of keys, and while she’s explaining this she’s in a field in Southern Utah in the middle of the night, and somehow the whole time she has been joking about a wooden buffalo keychain and Hot Pockets and her reckless alter ego, Babbi.

A few pages earlier, Jacobson lists “A few thoughts on the 1997 film ‘My Best Friend’s Wedding,’” the first of which is: “How was Julia Roberts such a respected and feared food critic by the age of twenty-seven? Is this possible?” She contemplates later, “Maybe hotels put out so many different-size towels so you have lots of options to cover up light sources in the middle of the night.”

This writing style is both thrilling and frustrating. Much like when viewing “Broad City,” part of the joy of reading “I Might Regret This” is the scramble to follow along with the barrage of jokes and moments of clarity. By the second half of the book, though, Jacobson settles into a more contemplative voice, and it’s the sections at the end of the book that elevate “I Might Regret This” from a playful, frenzied romp across America to a truly exceptional memoir.

The turning point comes during a strip mall aura reading in Sedona (of course), when Jacobson breaks down crying. “This part of myself I’d been trying to hide, the thing I avoided communicating to anyone: that I might be right back where I started, unlovable and unable to love,” she writes. “But I gave them five stars on Yelp, because … damn.”

On the drive from Sedona to Jerome, Ariz., Jacobson catalogues the best bagels of her life. Like almost everything in “I Might Regret This,” the list is really about love, in all its iterations and peculiarities, and about the interplay between love and identity — how over and over love makes and remakes us, through its absence as well as its presence.

Jacobson writes fondly about The Bagel Factory, where she hung out in high school and which provided “the perfect food for the past version of myself that wore headscarves and operated at peak weed consumption.” College-era Hidden Bean Bagels are a conduit for Jacobson’s memories of riding the bus alone from Baltimore to New York City every weekend: “I’d stare out the window listening to music, chomping on a cinnamon raisin bagel with butter I’d grabbed from the cafe for the ride. Soon I would step off the bus on my own, in the most interesting place in the whole world.”

Jacobson is tuned into the ways that physical objects, details, smells and tastes shape the bigger things in our lives. Our loves, our insecurities, our heartbreaks, our griefs: She understands that these things are intricately constructed, that their incongruities and moments of humor lend them texture and weight. The ability to understand that sadness and joy and ridiculousness are necessarily intertwined: This is what has always made Jacobson’s comedy so tenderly funny. Like “Broad City,” “I Might Regret This” is in a league of its own.

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 “I Might Regret This”

Abbi Jacobson

Grand Central Publishing

Oct. 30, 2018