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"I was worried about being the mouthpiece for anyone and being politicized personally," Tina Fey says about playing Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live. "It ended up being a lot of fun, but it did permanently politicize me in a way." (HGB USA)

Tina Fey: '30 Rock' Star And Creator Moves On

Jan 25, 2013 (Fresh Air)

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This interview was originally broadcast on April 13, 2011.

Tina Fey grew up in a household with parents she has described as "Goldwater Republicans with pre-Norman Lear racial attitudes."

But, she says, her parents were always supportive of her career, even when she told them she was moving to Chicago to start a career in improv.

"To their credit, they never said, 'You like entertainment. Are you sure you don't want to be an entertainment lawyer?' " she tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "[They understood] me wanting to pursue this before I had commitments, before I had a family. And I think they knew that neither my brother nor I would ever come back to them destitute."

Fey grew up to become Saturday Night Live's first female head writer as well as the star and executive producer of NBC's sitcom 30 Rock. Now, she's also a published author. Her memoir Bossypants contains her thoughts on juggling her roles as actor, daughter, mother, writer and boss on the sets of both SNL and 30 Rock, which will end its run as a series on January 31, 2013.

Writing Sketches

When Fey first arrived on the set of Saturday Night Live as a writer in 1997, she says, it initially took her a while to feel comfortable with herself in the writer's room.

"My first week, I completely froze," she says. "I couldn't think of anything. It was just too fast a gear shift. ... So I had some pieces that I had written trying to get the job, and I ended up turning them in. And the next week, I think I was able to write something and turn it in. And the week after that maybe, I wrote something that made its way to the dress rehearsal."

Three years later, Fey began co-anchoring the Weekend Update segment with Jimmy Fallon. She says she enjoyed the transition.

"It's very fun to be a writer at Saturday Night Live, but it's more fun to do both," she says. "When you're a writer and you hit that after-show party, you're exhausted and you maybe combed your hair and you maybe bought yourself something at Ann Taylor. But if you're on the show, you're all fancy. So in that most basic level, it was an upgrade in the job."

But anchoring Weekend Update also meant something else: Fey's sketches could never get cut. "You never have that fear and disappointment that the sketch players have," she says. "And it's the only segment week after week where you look directly into the camera and tell America your name, because a lot of times, I realize now, you see the sketch players in wigs, and if they're new, you go, 'Wait, which guy is that?' On Update, you look like yourself, and every week you say, 'Hi, this is me.' So it's career-changing."

Working With Sen. John McCain

Even as Fey began to do on-air work, she still wrote segments for the show, often helping the guest hosts with their opening monologue and sketches. One of her favorite guest hosts was Arizona Sen. John McCain.

"Sometimes when you have a person all-the-way not an actor, it's just delightful to watch them be game and try," she says. "We all liked him tremendously."

In 2004, Fey and McCain did a nonpartisan get-out-the-vote photo shoot for Life magazine in Washington, D.C., and McCain gave both Fey and her husband a tour of the Capitol.

"[SNL creator] Lorne Michaels always reminds me that Sen. McCain has that [photo] framed in his office," she says. "[Lorne] thinks subliminally that that's why he liked Sarah Palin when he saw her — because he was used to looking at me standing next to him in that picture."

Fey has received seven Emmy Awards, three Golden Globes and four Writers Guild of America Awards. In 2010, she received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, becoming the youngest-ever recipient of that award.


Interview Highlights

On her birth

"[My mom] was 39 when she delivered me. I think she had had my brother eight years earlier, and then in 1960s medicine, they had told her at some point, 'Oh, no, you're done. Don't even worry about it, dear. You're out of business.' And so I was a surprise."

On the criticism she got for playing Sarah Palin

"You can find this freshly posted as of yesterday. 'She should be ashamed of what she did to Sarah Palin,' which I think is a discredit to both me and former Gov. Palin. She's not fragile. And I'm not mean. And to imply otherwise is a disservice to us both. No one ever said, 'Oh, that Will Ferrell. He should be ashamed of the way he's conducting himself playing George W. Bush.' No one would ever say that."

On working with Alec Baldwin and Tracy Morgan

"They are different. It's funny because it's rare that we're all three together. The way that things are scheduled, I'll go on and it's either a day of all me and Alec ... or all me and Tracy. It's fun when we're all together ... but we kind of know each other by now, and we know the rhythm of who likes to shoot their coverage first and who likes to wait and go second."

On her mother forcing her to try on a bra over her clothes in J.C. Penney

"At the time it was horrifying. And I developed very early. I was probably in fifth grade getting a bra. I developed breasts so early and so strangely high that the bra was more to clarify what they were. That they were not a goiter or something. It was mortifying, but I can absolutely see making that same mistake because you transition as a mother from literally just pulling a booger out of that person's nose whenever you see one until at some point they assert: 'No, I'm a person. You can't fix my underpants on the subway.' "

On how women present themselves in comedy

"It's just such a tangled-up issue, the way women present themselves — whether or not they choose to put their thumbs in their panties on the cover of Maxim and judge each other back and forth on it. It's a complicated issue, and we didn't go much further on saying anything other than to say, 'Yeah, it's a complicated issue and we're all kind of figuring it out as we go.'

"In the episode [of 30 Rock called "TGS Hates Women"], we have a fake website called Joanofsnark.com that the women at Jezebel.com immediately recognized that it was their website basically and it was ... I don't have the answer. But I find it interesting that Olivia [Munn, a correspondent on The Daily Show] gets people who go after her on some of these sites because she's beautiful, and that's part of it. I think if she were kind of an aggressive, heavier girl with a Le Tigre mustache posing in her underpants, people would be like, 'That's amazing. Good for you.' But because she's very beautiful, people are like, 'You're using that.' It's a mess. We can't figure it out."

On her favorite Saturday Night Live hosts

"Alec Baldwin was always a pleasure [to write for]. Queen Latifah ... and Gwyneth Paltrow has a great ear or instinct for sketch comedy, because you have to make a quick choice and go with it and she was really good. Ben Affleck was really good."

On working with Tracy Morgan

"He's very pleasant. His mood is always pleasant. His health is an issue. He had a kidney transplant this year and he continues to struggle with diabetes, so that's probably the biggest challenge. He's trying and doing his best, but I've had so many conversations with him where I'm like, 'Buddy. You can't have a 20-piece McNugget meal.' And he's genuinely like, 'Really?' And, of course, I don't know what he's supposed to eat.

"But in terms of his desire to be [on 30 Rock] and his attitude, he's always great. I mean, he has a completely different background in terms of training or what he brings than someone like Alec or Jane [Krakowski] who come from the theater. But I feel like I've known [Morgan] a long time now, and I feel like I know how he likes to work, and I like to shoot with him because I feel like I can kind of get his best performance out of him."

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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Copyright(c) 2014, NPR
Final Storm book cover detail ( )

New In Paperback Jan. 9 - 15

by Charlotte Abbott
Jan 11, 2012

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Fiction and nonfiction releases from Jeff Shaara, Tina Fey, Michael Frayn, William Cohan and Seth Mnookin.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Missing some content? Check the source: NPR
Copyright(c) 2014, NPR
"I was worried about being the mouthpiece for anyone and being politicized personally," Tina Fey says about playing Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live. "It ended up being a lot of fun, but it did permanently politicize me in a way." (HGB USA)

Tina Fey On Life, Motherhood, Writing And Comedy

Jan 5, 2012 (Fresh Air from WHYY)

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This interview was originally broadcast on April 13, 2011. Bossypants is now available in paperback.

Tina Fey grew up in a household with parents she has described as "Goldwater Republicans with pre-Norman Lear racial attitudes."

But, she says, her parents were always supportive of her career, even when she told them she was moving to Chicago to start a career in improv.

"To their credit, they never said, 'You like entertainment. Are you sure you don't want to be an entertainment lawyer?' " she tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "[They understood] me wanting to pursue this before I had commitments, before I had a family. And I think they knew that neither my brother nor I would ever come back to them destitute."

Fey grew up to become Saturday Night Live's first female head writer as well as the star and executive producer of NBC's sitcom 30 Rock. Now, she's also a published author. Her new memoir Bossypants contains her thoughts on juggling her roles as actor, daughter, mother, writer and boss on the sets of both SNL and 30 Rock.

Writing Sketches

When Fey first arrived on the set of Saturday Night Live as a writer in 1997, she says, it initially took her a while to feel comfortable with herself in the writer's room.

"My first week, I completely froze," she says. "I couldn't think of anything. It was just too fast a gear shift. ... So I had some pieces that I had written trying to get the job, and I ended up turning them in. And the next week, I think I was able to write something and turn it in. And the week after that maybe, I wrote something that made its way to the dress rehearsal."

Three years later, Fey began co-anchoring the Weekend Update segment with Jimmy Fallon. She says she enjoyed the transition.

"It's very fun to be a writer at Saturday Night Live, but it's more fun to do both," she says. "When you're a writer and you hit that after-show party, you're exhausted and you maybe combed your hair and you maybe bought yourself something at Ann Taylor. But if you're on the show, you're all fancy. So in that most basic level, it was an upgrade in the job."

But anchoring Weekend Update also meant something else: Fey's sketches could never get cut. "You never have that fear and disappointment that the sketch players have," she says. "And it's the only segment week after week where you look directly into the camera and tell America your name, because a lot of times, I realize now, you see the sketch players in wigs, and if they're new, you go, 'Wait, which guy is that?' On Update, you look like yourself, and every week you say, 'Hi, this is me.' So it's career-changing."

Working With Sen. John McCain

Even as Fey began to do on-air work, she still wrote segments for the show, often helping the guest hosts with their opening monologue and sketches. One of her favorite guest hosts was Arizona Sen. John McCain.

"Sometimes when you have a person all-the-way not an actor, it's just delightful to watch them be game and try," she says. "We all liked him tremendously."

In 2004, Fey and McCain did a nonpartisan get-out-the-vote photo shoot for Life magazine in Washington, D.C., and McCain gave both Fey and her husband a tour of the Capitol.

"[SNL creator] Lorne Michaels always reminds me that Sen. McCain has that [photo] framed in his office," she says. "[Lorne] thinks subliminally that that's why he liked Sarah Palin when he saw her — because he was used to looking at me standing next to him in that picture."

Fey has received seven Emmy Awards, three Golden Globes and four Writers Guild of America Awards. In 2010, she received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, becoming the youngest-ever recipient of that award.


Interview Highlights

On her birth

"[My mom] was 39 when she delivered me. I think she had had my brother eight years earlier, and then in 1960s medicine, they had told her at some point, 'Oh, no, you're done. Don't even worry about it, dear. You're out of business.' And so I was a surprise."

On the criticism she got for playing Sarah Palin

"You can find this freshly posted as of yesterday. 'She should be ashamed of what she did to Sarah Palin,' which I think is a discredit to both me and former Gov. Palin. She's not fragile. And I'm not mean. And to imply otherwise is a disservice to us both. No one ever said, 'Oh, that Will Ferrell. He should be ashamed of the way he's conducting himself playing George W. Bush.' No one would ever say that."

On working with Alec Baldwin and Tracy Morgan

"They are different. It's funny because it's rare that we're all three together. The way that things are scheduled, I'll go on and it's either a day of all me and Alec ... or all me and Tracy. It's fun when we're all together ... but we kind of know each other by now, and we know the rhythm of who likes to shoot their coverage first and who likes to wait and go second."

On her mother forcing her to try on a bra over her clothes in J.C. Penney

"At the time it was horrifying. And I developed very early. I was probably in fifth grade getting a bra. I developed breasts so early and so strangely high that the bra was more to clarify what they were. That they were not a goiter or something. It was mortifying, but I can absolutely see making that same mistake because you transition as a mother from literally just pulling a booger out of that person's nose whenever you see one until at some point they assert: 'No, I'm a person. You can't fix my underpants on the subway.' "

On how women present themselves in comedy

"It's just such a tangled-up issue, the way women present themselves — whether or not they choose to put their thumbs in their panties on the cover of Maxim and judge each other back and forth on it. It's a complicated issue, and we didn't go much further on saying anything other than to say, 'Yeah, it's a complicated issue and we're all kind of figuring it out as we go.'

"In the episode [of 30 Rock called "TGS Hates Women"], we have a fake website called Joanofsnark.com that the women at Jezebel.com immediately recognized that it was their website basically and it was ... I don't have the answer. But I find it interesting that Olivia [Munn, a correspondent on The Daily Show] gets people who go after her on some of these sites because she's beautiful, and that's part of it. I think if she were kind of an aggressive, heavier girl with a Le Tigre mustache posing in her underpants, people would be like, 'That's amazing. Good for you.' But because she's very beautiful, people are like, 'You're using that.' It's a mess. We can't figure it out."

On her favorite Saturday Night Live hosts

"Alec Baldwin was always a pleasure [to write for]. Queen Latifah ... and Gwyneth Paltrow has a great ear or instinct for sketch comedy, because you have to make a quick choice and go with it and she was really good. Ben Affleck was really good."

On working with Tracy Morgan

"He's very pleasant. His mood is always pleasant. His health is an issue. He had a kidney transplant this year and he continues to struggle with diabetes, so that's probably the biggest challenge. He's trying and doing his best, but I've had so many conversations with him where I'm like, 'Buddy. You can't have a 20-piece McNugget meal.' And he's genuinely like, 'Really?' And, of course, I don't know what he's supposed to eat.

"But in terms of his desire to be [on 30 Rock] and his attitude, he's always great. I mean, he has a completely different background in terms of training or what he brings than someone like Alec or Jane [Krakowski] who come from the theater. But I feel like I've known [Morgan] a long time now, and I feel like I know how he likes to work, and I like to shoot with him because I feel like I can kind of get his best performance out of him."

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Read full story transcript

Missing some content? Check the source: NPR
Copyright(c) 2014, NPR
Bossypants ( )

Tina Fey Reveals All (And Then Some) In 'Bossypants'

Apr 13, 2011 (Fresh Air from WHYY)

See this

"I was worried about being the mouthpiece for anyone and being politicized personally," Tina Fey says about playing Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live. "It ended up being a lot of fun, but it did permanently politicize me in a way."

Hear this

This text will be replaced
Launch in player

Share this


Tina Fey grew up in a household with parents she has described as "Goldwater Republicans with pre-Norman Lear racial attitudes."

But, she says, her parents were always supportive of her career, even when she told them she was moving to Chicago to start a career in improv.

"To their credit, they never said, 'You like entertainment. Are you sure you don't want to be an entertainment lawyer?' " she tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "[They understood] me wanting to pursue this before I had commitments, before I had a family. And I think they knew that neither my brother nor I would ever come back to them destitute."

Fey grew up to become Saturday Night Live's first female head writer as well as the star and executive producer of NBC's sitcom 30 Rock. Now, she's also a published author. Her new memoir Bossypants contains her thoughts on juggling her roles as actor, daughter, mother, writer and boss on the sets of both SNL and 30 Rock.

Writing Sketches

When Fey first arrived on the set of Saturday Night Live as a writer in 1997, she says, it initially took her a while to feel comfortable with herself in the writer's room.

"My first week, I completely froze," she says. "I couldn't think of anything. It was just too fast a gear shift. ... So I had some pieces that I had written trying to get the job, and I ended up turning them in. And the next week, I think I was able to write something and turn it in. And the week after that maybe, I wrote something that made its way to the dress rehearsal."

Three years later, Fey began co-anchoring the Weekend Update segment with Jimmy Fallon. She says she enjoyed the transition.

"It's very fun to be a writer at Saturday Night Live, but it's more fun to do both," she says. "When you're a writer and you hit that after-show party, you're exhausted and you maybe combed your hair and you maybe bought yourself something at Ann Taylor. But if you're on the show, you're all fancy. So in that most basic level, it was an upgrade in the job."

But anchoring Weekend Update also meant something else: Fey's sketches could never get cut. "You never have that fear and disappointment that the sketch players have," she says. "And it's the only segment week after week where you look directly into the camera and tell America your name, because a lot of times, I realize now, you see the sketch players in wigs, and if they're new, you go, 'Wait, which guy is that?' On Update, you look like yourself, and every week you say, 'Hi, this is me.' So it's career-changing."

Working With Sen. John McCain

Even as Fey began to do on-air work, she still wrote segments for the show, often helping the guest hosts with their opening monologue and sketches. One of her favorite guest hosts was Arizona Sen. John McCain.

"Sometimes when you have a person all-the-way not an actor, it's just delightful to watch them be game and try," she says. "We all liked him tremendously."

In 2004, Fey and McCain did a nonpartisan get-out-the-vote photo shoot for Life magazine in Washington, D.C., and McCain gave both Fey and her husband a tour of the Capitol.

"[SNL creator] Lorne Michaels always reminds me that Sen. McCain has that [photo] framed in his office," she says. "[Lorne] thinks subliminally that that's why he liked Sarah Palin when he saw her — because he was used to looking at me standing next to him in that picture."

Fey has received seven Emmy Awards, three Golden Globes and four Writers Guild of America Awards. In 2010, she received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, becoming the youngest-ever recipient of that award.


Interview Highlights

On her birth

"[My mom] was 39 when she delivered me. I think she had had my brother eight years earlier, and then in 1960s medicine, they had told her at some point, 'Oh, no, you're done. Don't even worry about it, dear. You're out of business.' And so I was a surprise."

On the criticism she got for playing Sarah Palin

"You can find this freshly posted as of yesterday. 'She should be ashamed of what she did to Sarah Palin,' which I think is a discredit to both me and former Gov. Palin. She's not fragile. And I'm not mean. And to imply otherwise is a disservice to us both. No one ever said, 'Oh, that Will Ferrell. He should be ashamed of the way he's conducting himself playing George W. Bush.' No one would ever say that."

On working with Alec Baldwin and Tracy Morgan

"They are different. It's funny because it's rare that we're all three together. The way that things are scheduled, I'll go on and it's either a day of all me and Alec ... or all me and Tracy. It's fun when we're all together ... but we kind of know each other by now, and we know the rhythm of who likes to shoot their coverage first and who likes to wait and go second."

On her mother forcing her to try on a bra over her clothes in J.C. Penney

"At the time it was horrifying. And I developed very early. I was probably in fifth grade getting a bra. I developed breasts so early and so strangely high that the bra was more to clarify what they were. That they were not a goiter or something. It was mortifying, but I can absolutely see making that same mistake because you transition as a mother from literally just pulling a booger out of that person's nose whenever you see one until at some point they assert: 'No, I'm a person. You can't fix my underpants on the subway.' "

On how women present themselves in comedy

"It's just such a tangled-up issue, the way women present themselves — whether or not they choose to put their thumbs in their panties on the cover of Maxim and judge each other back and forth on it. It's a complicated issue, and we didn't go much further on saying anything other than to say, 'Yeah, it's a complicated issue and we're all kind of figuring it out as we go.'

"In the episode [of 30 Rock called "TGS Hates Women"], we have a fake website called Joanofsnark.com that the women at Jezebel.com immediately recognized that it was their website basically and it was ... I don't have the answer. But I find it interesting that Olivia [Munn, a correspondent on The Daily Show] gets people who go after her on some of these sites because she's beautiful, and that's part of it. I think if she were kind of an aggressive, heavier girl with a Le Tigre mustache posing in her underpants, people would be like, 'That's amazing. Good for you.' But because she's very beautiful, people are like, 'You're using that.' It's a mess. We can't figure it out."

On her favorite Saturday Night Live hosts

"Alec Baldwin was always a pleasure [to write for]. Queen Latifah ... and Gwyneth Paltrow has a great ear or instinct for sketch comedy, because you have to make a quick choice and go with it and she was really good. Ben Affleck was really good."

On working with Tracy Morgan

"He's very pleasant. His mood is always pleasant. His health is an issue. He had a kidney transplant this year and he continues to struggle with diabetes, so that's probably the biggest challenge. He's trying and doing his best, but I've had so many conversations with him where I'm like, 'Buddy. You can't have a 20-piece McNugget meal.' And he's genuinely like, 'Really?' And, of course, I don't know what he's supposed to eat.

"But in terms of his desire to be [on 30 Rock] and his attitude, he's always great. I mean, he has a completely different background in terms of training or what he brings than someone like Alec or Jane [Krakowski] who come from the theater. But I feel like I've known [Morgan] a long time now, and I feel like I know how he likes to work, and I like to shoot with him because I feel like I can kind of get his best performance out of him."

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Bossypants
By Tina Fey
Hardcover, 288 pages
Reagan Arthur Books
List Price: $26

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Copyright(c) 2014, NPR
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What We're Reading, April 5-11

Apr 5, 2011

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The life of French chanteuse Edith Piaf; Tina Fey's hilarious book of zingers; the untold story of Julia and Paul Child in the OSS; and a quiet meditation on the desert wilderness from 10,000 feet above sea level.


No Regrets

The Life of Edith Piaf

by Carolyn Burke

Edith Piaf's story is bulletproof. Tell the facts and the myths and voila — a book you can't put down. Her father was an itinerant contortionist, her mother a drug addict who abandoned her. Raised for a time in her grandmother's brothel, she grew up in a world of pimps, prostitutes, petty thieves and sailors. Discovered singing on the streets of Paris at 18 and christened la mome piaf (kid sparrow), she rose to become France's greatest star. "The hardest working 97 pounds in show business" Ed Sullivan said as he introduced the diminutive star on his show. Her "coiled vibrato," as Burke so beautifully captures it, sold more records than any other artist in her time and filled concert halls around the world. All the stars of her day crowded to see this tiny woman with "the voice of life itself" — Charlie Chaplin, Billie Holiday, Judy Garland, Jean Cocteau, Yves Montand (her protégé and one of her legion of lovers). In this vivid work, Carolyn Burke paints a picture of a woman passionate, driven, funny, haunted. Piaf rose every day at dusk, wrote, rehearsed, commanded, took pills and drank and sang until dawn. When she died in 1963, at age 47, some 40,000 people came to her funeral at Pere Lachaise cemetery, where to this day she outdraws Jim Morrison, who is also buried there.

Carolyn Burke is the author of two other women's biographies, Lee Miller: A Life and Becoming Modern: The Life of Mina Loy. Titled in homage to Piaf's iconic song, "Non, je ne regrette rien," No Regrets is a biography and a kind of history of 20th century France. As Edith buries her young daughter in 1935, Hitler's Brown Shirts are on the horizon. As she struggles for her health and life in the early 60's, Algeria struggles for its independence. The stories travel in parallel. Burke's research is meticulous; she interviews neighbours, dredges up documents and photographs, finds Edith's birth certificate with proof that she was born in a hospital rather than on the street as legend has it. She sets forth differing accounts - was it "La Marseillaise" Edith sang the first time she performed for a street crowd or was it "L'Internationale"? Often interesting, these details sometimes stop the action and distance the reader. In the end, however, the facts and the myths reinforce one another, coming together to create an intricate portrait of this tiny yet larger-than-life chanteuse.The Kitchen Sisters (Davia Nelson & Nikki Silva)

Hardcover, 304 pages; Knopf; list price, $27.95; publication date, March 22


Bossypants

By Tina Fey

Tina Fey's first book — which after only one day on sale, is already a bestseller — is part of a long tradition of comedians grabbing their own little corner of the publishing world. The great era of this trend was the mid-90s, when Paul Reiser's books (Couplehood, Babyhood) were blockbuster hits, and everyone's nightstand supported the weight of a copy of Sein Language. Do you remember when Ellen DeGeneres was more of an author than a talk show host, with her book My Point ... And I Do Have One? She was! In 1996! The covers of these types of books often included an earnest close-up shot of the comedian, flashing a goofy smile at Barnes & Noble shoppers. The fact that Fey's book features a similar shot — but with hairy man arms — shows that she is aware of the fray she is jumping into; and that she intends to parody it at every turn. Bossypants is not as subversive as you might hope that a book from the creator of 30 Rock might be, but it does touch on several controversial subjects: gay marriage, Photoshop and women's magazines, gender bias in the workplace, "having it all," weight issues, struggles with childhood trauma, being the boss, hating the boss, human grimness inside a YMCA and body odor. Fey's great talent as a writer (the same talents that landed her the head gig at SNL and later, her own NBC show) is that she is fearless but not fearsome, and her charming, no-holds-barred attitude is on full display here.

It is extremely difficult to be objective about Bossypants as a female with a brain, age 15-65. It's like trying to judge a Twix bar. So many of us have grown up worshiping Fey as the shining beacon of thinking-woman-makes-good, while simultaneously questioning her influence on culture and her place in the boy's club; so it's a challenge, at least initially, to know what to make of her wit laid bare in writing, or even where to begin. So I decided to just begin by laughing. I set all of my previous opinions about Fey aside (I love 30 Rock to death; I didn't love some of her choices on SNL; I think she is basically a genius, etc.) and let the writing affect me, and it did. Mostly it affected the people I was on the Acela with at the time, because I must have snorted Sprite out of my nose on about five occasions while reading on the ride. Fey has this uncanny way of setting up a zinger, even in text form, so that it is physically difficult not to laugh when the punchline hits. If we could hold an Olympics for zinging, she would be our Michael Phelps. The book itself is not a true memoir, so don't go looking for an easy path through Fey's life; or for the secrets to her success. She does dive into a few self-help moments when explaining how to be a good boss, or how to beat the boys at their own game in the workplace, but mostly she shows by example: if you want to be a funny woman, you need to start out by being funny. And I don't know about you, but I think someone who can write lines like "Always wear a bra. Even if you don't think you need it, just...you know what? You're not going to regret it" is pretty damn funny. Sure, there are moments when you want to know more, and wish that Fey had dipped beneath her punchy exterior to unearth more self-revelations — to break the veneer that got her so far — but maybe that's for the next book. Though I'd really be satisfied if she wrote another volume of unibrow jokes or decided to put out a collection of impossibly cute quotes from her toddler daughter (the originator of the great 30 Rock phrase, 'I want to go to there'). Everything Fey does continues to make me laugh. I can't really judge a Twix. — Rachel Syme, books editor

Hardcover, 288 pages; Reagan Arthur; list price, $26.99; publication date, April 5


A Covert Affair

Julia Child and Paul Child in the OSS

By Jennet Conant

First of all, don't be suckered in by the title. There's at least three books worth of story packed in between these covers, and only a teeny fraction of it has to do with Paul Child; still less with his famous wife. Is this a story about the unsung work of the OSS — forerunner to today's CIA — in the Far East? Is it a story about how McCarthyism crippled American foreign policy by driving the experienced Southeast Asia hands out of the State Department? Is it the story of Jane Foster, the glamorous blonde painter and Indonesia expert who carried a pet chipmunk in her pocket and may (or may not) have been passing secrets to the Soviets? One thing's for sure — very little of this story is about the Childs. They appear in the first chapter, and in fact they appear so lively and personable that you're left a little disappointed when they vanish for the next hundred or so pages.

That's not to say A Covert Affair isn't worth reading. I knew very little about the Second World War as it was fought away from the spotlight, in places like Kunming, Calcutta and Kandy, high in the Sri Lankan hills, where Julia Child spent much of the war filing classified communications for the OSS. Sri Lanka was where Julia met both Paul Child and Jane Foster, and author Jennet Conant paints a vivid picture of life there, complete with bottles of "operational scotch" and random tarantula encounters. Paul Child seems to have been a particular friend to the fascinating Jane, a woman who thought nothing of storming into a Japanese POW camp after V-J Day and haranguing the commanding officer into releasing her ex-husband. But that's where the problem lies: Jane Foster is such a compelling character, her bitter postwar experience so fascinating, that Julia and Paul Child fade into the background. She needed her own book. — Petra Mayer, associate producer, Weekend All Things Considered

Hardcover, 416 pages; Simon & Schuster; list price, $28; publication date, April 5


Fire Season

Field Notes from a Wilderness Lookout

By Philip Connors

For the last ten years, former Wall Street Journal reporter Philip Connors has stood atop a fire-watching tower in the Gila Wilderness in the remote New Mexico desert. He stands there for half the year, 10,000 feet above sea level, watching for fire and contemplating nature, and the nature of the universe itself. His book of reflections about his time spent on the tower, Fire Season, began as an essay in the Paris Review — and evolved into one of the most elegant ruminations about the wilderness and the rugged West to emerge in quite some time.

I hail from Albuquerque, New Mexico, so Connor's Fire Season hit close to home; when you live in the desert, fire is everything. The grass is so dry that a single lightning strike can spark a blaze over acres at a time. Fire lookouts stand constant vigil during high season and rarely leave their posts — it is a job out of time; something that a Native American leader may have done from a mountaintop before settlers ever discovered the West. Connors, who left bustling New York City for such a job, is a beautiful writer, and this book is a great accomplishment. I found myself sucked in by the story (which shouldn't really be so compelling; but he makes standing on a tower for months intriguing) and also by the writing, which is at turns funny, elegiac and soft. This is a quiet book; reading it can feel like meditation, like understanding something under the surface. I didn't want it to end — and Connors himself captured this feeling of wanting to hold onto an experience far better than I ever could: "The unease, the sadness, the almost instantaneous nostalgia for events as they happen — each day on the mountain now elicits a wave of feeling centered around the knowledge that my stay here cannot last." — Rachel Syme, books editor

Hardcover, 256 pages; Ecco; list price, $24.99; publication date, April 5
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Bossypants
By Tina Fey
Hardcover, 288 pages
Reagan Arthur Books
List Price: $26

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