Book of the Week for March 22 – March 28
Why it’s interesting:
I had a love/hate relationship with this book while I was listening to it. Lena Dunham herself narrates it, which I’m a big fan of, and I so greatly admire her willingness and ability to put herself out there. These are VERY honest essays, sometimes, to my cultured midwestern brain, too honest. Like, too much information. And I kept thinking What do her parents think?
The stuff she writes about (a lot of it is sex…like, a lot…) is stuff that I wouldn’t find offensive if it was fiction. And it’s not so much that I find it offensive, it just makes me uncomfortable. For her, her family, her friends, etc., which is all kind of stupid. It’s not up to me to decide what she should be comfortable with sharing. (The following epiphany came to me while I was lost in the dog park:) Maybe the boundaries I’ve drawn for how much to share (and the reason I don’t write personal essays or poetry) are stupid and arbitrary. I’ve started to consider how I could branch out and do some more of this type of writing. I don’t foresee myself getting over the terror, but maybe I could use a pen name. Maybe just writing more personal essays and poetry in a journal would be the way to go. I’m not sure. But I’m really glad I read this book (and I’m currently listening to Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking, and getting the SAME message) because I have definitely arbitrarily decided to close off a part of myself, and its good, if terrifying, to think of opening myself up more.
For readers of Nora Ephron, Tina Fey, and David Sedaris, this hilarious, wise, and fiercely candid collection of personal essays establishes Lena Dunham—the acclaimed creator, producer, and star of HBO’s Girls—as one of the most original young talents writing today.
In Not That Kind of Girl, Dunham illuminates the experiences that are part of making one’s way in the world: falling in love, feeling alone, being ten pounds overweight despite eating only health food, having to prove yourself in a room full of men twice your age, finding true love, and most of all, having the guts to believe that your story is one that deserves to be told.
“Take My Virginity (No Really, Take It)” is the account of Dunham’s first time, and how her expectations of sex didn’t quite live up to the actual event (“No floodgate had been opened, no vault of true womanhood unlocked”); “Girls & Jerks” explores her former attraction to less-than-nice guys—guys who had perfected the “dynamic of disrespect” she found so intriguing; “Is This Even Real?” is a meditation on her lifelong obsession with death and dying—what she calls her “genetically predestined morbidity.” And in “I Didn’t F*** Them, but They Yelled at Me,” she imagines the tell-all she will write when she is eighty and past caring, able to reflect honestly on the sexism and condescension she has encountered in Hollywood, where women are “treated like the paper thingies that protect glasses in hotel bathrooms—necessary but infinitely disposable.”
Exuberant, moving, and keenly observed, Not That Kind of Girl is a series of dispatches from the frontlines of the struggle that is growing up. “I’m already predicting my future shame at thinking I had anything to offer you,” Dunham writes. “But if I can take what I’ve learned and make one menial job easier for you, or prevent you from having the kind of sex where you feel you must keep your sneakers on in case you want to run away during the act, then every misstep of mine will have been worthwhile.”