Books

Judith Lucy
Turns Out, I’m Fine

Turns Out, I’m Fine is both the title of Judith Lucy’s latest memoir and a hard-won declaration of self. While a simple assertion on the surface, the noted comedian explains with open-hearted insight the influences that held her back from making it – from discomforting dynamics in her family to the process of searching out her birth parents, to her treatment at the hands of men, both personally and professionally.

Lucy’s dry asides and skewering anecdotes of male thoughtlessness are always satisfying, but in a work that is largely about reconsidering her relationship to male validation, there is a persistent blind spot around gender that weakens the impact of her revelations.

The strongest moments are when Lucy reflects on her family and the internalised misogyny she learnt from her father and directed at her mother. But the regret she feels for joining her father and brother in belittling her mother never seems to carry into her thinking about the world outside her family.

There is a parallel between Lucy describing her exclusion by men, who are blind to what they are doing, or don’t care, and the ways Lucy seems to be ignoring the patterns of misogyny she repeats in her attitudes and biases now. There is the sense that men have taught Lucy to ridicule more women than just her mother.

In Lucy’s anecdotes, men always have penises and women always have vaginas. Perhaps this has been the cadence of Lucy’s comedy for a long time and lends an economy to her delivery that is hard to give up. However, after making a generalisation about women feeling uncomfortable talking about their success and seemingly to illustrate her point, Lucy mentions being on a recent panel where the only woman who felt comfortable talking about her career was the young trans woman. This anecdote isn’t expanded upon and hangs uncomfortably: the accusation seems to be that this woman isn’t performing gender the way Lucy expects.

Elsewhere, Lucy writes judgementally about women who get cosmetic procedures and, more generally, any woman who asserts priorities different from her own.

Ultimately, what helps Lucy shift her focus from the validation of men is paying greater attention to the world around her, through engagement with climate action and international aid; but while this is an admirable endpoint, it doesn’t appear to have led her to rethink the ways she talks about women.

Lucy’s self-awareness treads water, and while she is often a charming, intelligent person to spend time with, this book doesn’t take us anywhere new. 

Oliver Reeson

Simon & Schuster, 272pp, $32.99

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Apr 17, 2021 as "Judith Lucy, Turns Out, I’m Fine".

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Reviewer: Oliver Reeson