Happy Accidents

Happy Accidents

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by Jane Lynch

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In the summer of 1974, a fourteen-year-old girl in Dolton, Illinois, had a dream. A dream to become an actress, like her idols Ron Howard and Vicki Lawrence. But it was a long way from the South Side of Chicago to Hollywood, and it didn't help that she'd recently dropped out of the school play, The Ugly Duckling. Or that the Hollywood casting directors she

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In the summer of 1974, a fourteen-year-old girl in Dolton, Illinois, had a dream. A dream to become an actress, like her idols Ron Howard and Vicki Lawrence. But it was a long way from the South Side of Chicago to Hollywood, and it didn't help that she'd recently dropped out of the school play, The Ugly Duckling. Or that the Hollywood casting directors she wrote to replied that "professional training was a requirement."But the funny thing is, it all came true. Through a series of happy accidents, Jane Lynch created an improbable—and hilarious—path to success. In those early years, despite her dreams, she was also consumed with anxiety, feeling out of place in both her body and her family. To deal with her worries about her sexuality, she escaped in positive ways—such as joining a high school chorus not unlike the one in Glee—but also found destructive outlets. She started drinking almost every night her freshman year of high school and developed a mean and judgmental streak that turned her into a real-life Sue Sylvester.Then, at thirty-one, she started to get her life together. She was finally able to embrace her sexuality, come out to her parents, and quit drinking for good. Soon after, a Frosted Flakes commercial and a chance meeting in a coffee shop led to a role in the Christopher Guest movie Best in Show, which helped her get cast in The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Similar coincidences and chance meetings led to roles in movies starring Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd, and even Meryl Streep in 2009's Julie&Julia. Then, of course, came the two lucky accidents that truly changed her life. Getting lost in a hotel led to an introduction to her future wife, Lara. Then, a series she'd signed up for abruptly got canceled, making it possible for her to take the role of Sue Sylvester in Glee, which made her a megastar.Today, Jane Lynch has finally found the contentment she thought she'd never have. Part comic memoir and part inspirational narrative, this is a book equally for the rabid Glee fan and for anyone who needs a new perspective on life, love, and success.WITH A FOREWORD BY CAROL BURNETT

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Editorial Reviews

Jen Chaney
Amid all the jokes she cracks, Lynch deserves credit for honestly and seriously handling subjects that could have been melodramatic minefields with a lightness that doesn't drag the reader into a morass of therapeutic psychobabble. Many celebrity memoirs are so obviously ghostwritten that it seems fair to wonder whether the alleged author even knows the book has been published. But, refreshingly, the prose in Happy Accidents reads like it's been pecked out on a laptop keyboard by Lynch herself.
—The Washington Post

At this year's BookExpo America, Glee star Jane Lynch explained her memoir this way: "I'm a navel gazer so I've been investigating my feelings and my motivations for a long time. But I never stepped outside of myself and looked at the trajectory thus far. So much has happened to me in one year: I got married; I'm on a television show; I'm rebuilding my house; I'm bringing my wife and new child out there. I started to reflect and I saw how much I suffered as a kid over feeling alienated and different and less than. As I was putting together the story of my life, I really wished I could go back in time and talk to that kid and say, "Just relax, it's going to be fine, and trust in your life."

Publishers Weekly
Lynch, known for her role as cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester on Fox's Glee, reflects on her convoluted career path in this compelling memoir packed with personal revelations. She begins with her "pure Americana” childhood in Dolton, Ill., where she "felt like an outsider” and began drinking while a high school freshman. As an Illinois State theater major, she became "for-real gay, not just in-my-head gay,” and then headed to Cornell for an M.F.A. and more drinking: "I became a real asshole. I started pushing away anyone who showed me kindness.” Scenes opposite Harrison Ford in The Fugitive (1993) kicked off the synchronistic series of happy casting accidents that put her on the path to fame. Those expecting a humorous book from the up-tempo Lynch will be surprised to find she has instead excavated an introspective tunnel into the dark side of her "inner landscape,” a shadowy world of depression, insecurities, anxieties, therapy, and AA meetings. Her honest insights make this a potent page-turner, but Glee fans will be disappointed to find the few pages devoted to the series can easily be read while standing in a bookstore aisle. (Sept. 13)
Library Journal
Although Lynch remembers her life as a series of happy accidents, the listener is soon aware that the actress has been focused and hard-working in her long career. She worked in the theater and on a TV shopping channel and acted in commercials, movies (like the hilarious Best in Show), and many small TV roles. At nearly 50, she landed a sensational part in the Fox channel hit Glee—the role that made her an award-winning star. Along the way, she faced some hard personal issues and emerged confident in her achievements with a skyrocketing career and a wonderful family. Lynch is an experienced voiceover performer and great reader of her own story. This audiobook is recommended for public libraries with collections in popular culture and gender studies. ["Those who give her a chance may find a kindred spirit and be inspired by her personal awareness," read the review of the New York Times best-selling Voice hc, LJ Xpress Reviews, 7/8/11.—Ed.]—Barbara Valle, El Paso P.L., TX

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Read an Excerpt

Happy Accidents

By Jane Lynch


Copyright © 2011 Canyon Lady Productions
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4013-4176-3

Chapter One


If I could go back in time and talk to my twenty-year-old self, the first thing I would say is: "Lose the perm." Secondly I would say: "Relax. Really. Just relax. Don't sweat it."

I can't remember a time when I wasn't anxious and fearful that the parade would pass me by. And I was sure there was someone or something outside of myself with all the answers. I had a driving, anxiety-filled ambition. I wanted to be a working actor so badly. I wanted to belong and feel like I was valued and seen. Well, now I am a working actor, and I guarantee you it's not because I suffered or worried over it.

As I look back, the road to where I am today has been a series of happy accidents I was either smart or stupid enough to take advantage of. I thought I had to have a plan, a strategy. Turns out I just had to be ready and willing to take chances, look at what's right in front of me, and put my heart into everything I do. All that anxiety and fear didn't help, nor did it fuel anything useful. Finally releasing that worry served to get me out of my own way. So my final piece of advice to twenty-year-old me: Be easy on your sweet self. And don't drink Miller Lite tall boys in the morning.

* * *

I DON'T KNOW WHY, BUT I WAS BORN WITH AN EXTRA helping of angst. I would love to be able to blame this on my parents, as I'm told this is good for book sales. But I can't.

I grew up in a family that was pure Americana. We lived in Dolton, Illinois, one of the newly founded villages south of Chicago created to house the burgeoning middle class. We were like the subject of a Norman Rockwell painting, except it was the 1960s and '70s, so he would have had to paint us with bellbottoms and a stocked liquor cabinet. I didn't settle into myself as a child, but the family I had around me was entertaining and embraced the life we had.

My dad, Frank, was a classic Irish-Catholic cutup. He was always singing a ditty, dancing a soft-shoe, or cracking wise while mixing a cocktail. He was almost bald by the time he was nineteen, and every day he'd smear Sea & Ski sun lotion on top of his naked head, then slap a little VO5 onto his hands and smooth the ring of hair around the sides with a flourish. "How do you like that?" he'd say to himself in the mirror, and sing under his breath, "I've got things to do, places to go, people to see." And after that daily Sea & Ski ritual, damn if he still didn't end up getting skin cancer on his pate. However, it would be lung cancer that took my dad from us in 2003, and I miss him every day.

I can remember my dad, when I was really young—so young, it's like Vaseline over the memory—dancing with me in the living room. "Do you come here often?" he'd ask, twirling me around and singing along with Sid Caesar: "Pardon me miss, but I've never done this ... with a real live girl ..."

My dad also did a bang-up Bing Crosby. I loved it when he sang, and we never had to wait very long for it. He'd sing while putting sugar in his coffee, while buffing his shoes, or for no reason at all. He'd make up songs about us, the more ridiculous the better: To the tune of "Val-deri, Val-dera," he'd sing "Jane-eree, Jane-erah." My nickname became simply Eree-Erah. He added –anikins or -erotomy to the end of anyone's name. My older sister was Julie-anikins, my younger brother, Bob-erotomy. One of his favorite joyous exclamations was "Pon-TIFF! Pon-TIFF!" from the word "pontifical," which was his way of saying "fabulous." And "My cup runneth over" was boiled down to "My cup! My cup!" Speaking of cup, coffee was coffiticus, my mom was L.T. (Long Thing, because she was tall), and the phone was the telephonic communicator. We would roll our eyes or feign embarrassment—but we all wanted to be the subject of Dad's silliness, to be a part of his joy.

Each day, when Dad came home from his job at the bank, the first thing he'd do was put his keys and spare change into the saddlebags of the little ceramic Chihuahua that sat on his dresser. Then he and my mom would indulge in their nightly cocktail ritual with their favorite drink, Ten High Whiskey. Dad had his with ginger ale and Mom had hers with water, and they'd toast with the words "First today, badly needed." Dad would say, "L.T., let's get some atmosphere!" and they'd dim the lights and start singing something from My Fair Lady, Dad harmonizing perfectly to my mom's melody.

Banks were closed on Wednesday, and my dad loved his day off. It started at Double D (Dunkin' Donuts) because he loved their coffiticus and the chocolate cake donut. Wearing his blue elasticized "putter pants," he would check off items on his to-do list. He was forever singing something goofy under his breath; "liver, bacon, onions ..." was a favorite. He wanted us to be as enthusiastic as he was about his accomplishments. If Wednesday's lawn work went unnoticed for its superior greenness, he'd plead, "Rave a little! Rave a little!"

My mom, Eileen Lynch (nee Carney), was, and still is, gorgeous. Tall and blond, with navy blue eyes and beautiful long legs, she never failed to turn heads. She always had a nice tan in the summer. And she's a clotheshorse who never pays full price ... ever ... unlike her middle kid. To this day (and she is now in her eighty-second year) she puts on an outfit every morning. She's classy down to her socks. She would kill me if she saw the comfort shoes I sneak under those long award-show gowns, especially because we have been known to watch hours and hours of What Not to Wear together. I share her love of fashion—I just don't have her eye, or the figure to look fabulous in anything off-the-rack like she does.

Mom is half-Swedish and half-Irish, but the Swedish tends to win out. She can get sentimental, but for the most part, she's strong and independent and doesn't suffer fools, show-offs, or braggarts, and of course I'm nothing if not a foolish bragging show-off. Somehow, she manages to love me anyway.

But when Mom opens her mouth, she's hilarious, though mostly she doesn't mean to be. She's a bit spacey, and her synapses don't fire as fast as the rest of ours. She has always been unperturbed by her oblivion—and barely fazed when she finally gets the joke.

Her eyeglasses were always full of fingerprints, smudges, and pancake batter. I'd take them off her head, wash them with dish detergent, then put them back on. "Wow!" she'd exclaim, seeing what she had been missing.

She is absolutely frank with her opinions and literal in her interpretations. In our family she was the perfect "straight man" to the hijinks.

Our house ran like clockwork. All five of us sat down to dinner at the same time every day, after which Mom would have another cocktail, and maybe another. Dad would watch the news, and at 10 p.m. he'd eat a Hershey bar with almonds and settle in for Johnny Carson's monologue. After that, it was time for bed.

My parents truly loved each other, and almost always got along. If you ask Mom now about their life together, the only negative comment she'd come up with is "Sometimes he'd bug me." She had to have at least one criticism; she's Swedish. Dad, on the other hand, had no criticism of my mother. And for a man in the sixties, my dad really got women—he understood and loved them. Once, when he had to go buy my mom Kotex at the store, the guy at the counter, embarrassed, slipped them into a paper bag. He started to carry them outside, so my dad could take the bag where no one would see, but my dad just laughed. "It's all right," he said. "I don't need to sneak out the back door."

He also liked women's company more than men's. For a number of years when I was a kid, we went on vacation to summer cottages in Paw Paw, Michigan. The guys would all go play golf while the women sat on the beach. My dad would stay with the women, sitting under an umbrella in his swim trunks, with Sea & Ski slathered all over his pasty white body, chatting the afternoon away.

* * *

THOUGH WE WERE ONLY TWO YEARS APART, JULIE AND I were totally different. From the moment I was born, she was looking to create her own family because she now wanted out of ours. She loved dolls, little kids, and telling people what to do. She was thin and pretty, with long blond hair—the Marcia Brady to my Jan.

But Julie had a great sense of humor—we all did, thanks to our parents, who taught us by example that being the butt of the joke is a badge of honor. Julie was the space cadet, so we Lynches would mock her in a high-pitched dumb-blonde voice that made her giggle. We were not a thin-skinned people. (Continues...)

Excerpted from Happy Accidents by Jane Lynch Copyright © 2011 by Canyon Lady Productions. Excerpted by permission of Hyperion. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Happy Accidents 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 168 reviews.
Elliemay More than 1 year ago
I gave this book four instead of five stars for one reason: lacked pathos. While the writing is solid and clear, there was too much telling and not enough showing. I didn't feel the emotional "oomph" that I would have liked to have connected to. It was more a chronicle of her life, which is fine because she is one of the best comedic actresses to date and who in the heck doesn't want to know about Jane Lynch's professional career and private life? But there again, I missed the serious depth that could have come with her struggles growing up and finding her way around alcoholism, life in general. As a gay woman I applaud Jane for stepping into the light and living her life with class and determination. Hats off to Lara and Haden for stepping up to the plate as well. Jane, like Carol Burnett, will go down in the history of women who made us laugh, made us think, and gave us hope.
Peggy Gilster More than 1 year ago
After touching the enhancement button several times, it finally works until the next time you want to use it , and then you have to go through the whole process again. Knowing this now, I would have gotten the unenhanced version. That being said, I loved this book!
CSM1971 More than 1 year ago
Started listening to the audio version while working out, i love listening to Jane, its like she is talking to you, very personable and funny. She is a treasure, i cannot wait to finish it! i highly reccommend it even if you only know her from Glee or any of her other credits, definately a fun listen so far, Its great knowing she had an awkward childhood like the rest of us and that she has learned her life lessons the hard and funny, i will reccommed this to anyone for a great fun read!
Meg_TampaBay More than 1 year ago
At this time, the enhanced content does not work on the Color Nook and it will not download on my other devices at all. So don't waste the extra 5 bucks just to have tech support tell you to wait until they get it figured out.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
For years Jane Lynch has been a household name, our entire can looove, looove, loooves her. After reading her book, I love her even more now. What a pleasant look into her life! She is such a positive role model for each & every person & age group, striving for excellence and showing first hand how dreams do come true! Great book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting memoir if you can relate to her story. I would recommend if you are a fan of hers.
jmwolffyy More than 1 year ago
I am not sure why I chose to purchase this ebook, as I am a marginal Gleek (I like the show but haven't watched any of it since the end of season 1). I did not know of Jane Lynch until said show, and I rarely read autobiographies at all. So why I bought it is unknown... however, I am so glad I did! I found myself in the pages repeatedly. And it was very heartening to know that it's not all that bad that I often feel as though I am still waiting to "grow up" at 35. There were obvious differences as well, but I have great thanks to Ms. Lynch for being willing to share with the public all of her years of uncertainty and immaturity that I so often find within myself.
paulfarahvar More than 1 year ago
I am not a fan of the show Glee but I have always been a fan of Jane Lynch since I saw her in Best in Show. Great story and very inspirational. Highly recommend this book
BluEyeBee More than 1 year ago
At first I thought this book was going to anger me a bit because I love her characters I figured I would give it a read anyhow. I thought it would make me mad because I thought that with the title it would be a story of 'luck' stumbling on her path and she got where she is today because of a series if 'happy lucky moments'. What I learned was that 'happy accidents' was, in fact, a great title. Her book made me realize that what the true meaning of the title was; she struggled, yes, like many people but she never gave up. She knew what she wanted and she hustled for it! These 'accidents' she speaks of were actually fortunate moments that she earned later in life. She reminded me that even when we are down and we are still pushing for what we want life eventually catches up to you and says okay... here is what you've earned. Oh and even though I am not an aspiring actress or lesbian... I was still drawn to read the book.. She has just an alluring story that we can all relate to. I wish her all the luck with Lara and Haden!! I just read what EllieMay wrote.. and yea I guess I would have to agree with her in her contrast to the depth part... I mean JANE! come on! you couldnt have loved everyone!! lol
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very detailed story of how Jane Lynch came to be an actress over theyears, and her ups and downs of her career and experiences. If you are a fan of Jane Lynch, this book is worth the money. Started having more respect for her knowing who she is in both her career and personal life, and not just "the coach in Glee."
Anonymous 3 months ago
Hi, sorry you're going through this. It's not a sin to care about anyone. So you don't have to go morman and do everything to make up for your sin. Praying is for time to talk to God not to pray to buy your way into heaven. So just be cool. If she's really your friend she'll forgive you, and besides if she's homosexual too then she'll understand.
Anonymous 3 months ago
Okay, so l used to have this friend. And she came out and said she was bise<_>xual. But later on she met this guy and they started dating cause they liked eachother so much. After several months, she realized that the liking of girls was just a phase, more like she really wanted to be them because they were so pretty and funny and smart etc. So maybe this is a phase you are going through. Or maybe not. But l suggest that you distance the amount of hangout time you guys have. Spend more time with other people, maybe even see if you are attracted to them also. I really don't know how to help. This is just something you're gonna have to figure out yourself in your own time. I do wish you luck, though.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The devil is in the details. Lynch is easy to like in her book. When she and her partner met, I all but melted. Pure beauty. WoW!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was expecting it to be funny and interesting. I found myself waiting for the part when she got to glee because i figured it might get interesting after she got famous. Nope. Its just an autobiography of a theater actress.
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Fans will appreciate this story. Lots of little steps to get her career. Kind of long and recycling at points. But not a bad read. Sad that so much has changed for her since this was published.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love jane she is very funny
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Jane tells her story so well and with humor that you cant stop reading. She keeps you wondering where her life will take her in the next chapter. She also brings to life how it isnt instant fame overnight for most actors.