I have to say that I am loving the influx of celebrity humor memoirs into the literary world as of late. Or at least I am enjoying their growing popularity. Most recently, I picked up a copy of “Not That Kind of Girl” by Lena Dunham from the local library (yes, those still exist. Go to yours, guaranteed you will find some gems).
Prior to reading this book, I was mostly unfamiliar with Dunham. I haven’t watched “Girls.” I don’t watch her interviews. I hadn’t read any of her stories in The New Yorker. I had read a few articles about her, but that was it. For me, reading this book was getting a peek into this woman’s mind and another humorous memoir to hopefully make me feel better about my life, as these books often do.
After reading this, I must ask, Lena, will you marry me? I know I already have a husband and all, but you are incredible.
This book, like many others in its genre, was raw and honest. Dunham didn’t hold anything back. In fact, she was just bold enough to slightly terrify me from the beginning.
The book is divided into sections based on topic: Love and Sex, Body, Friendship, Work and Big Picture. Yes, she opens with the sex section. At first, I didn’t pay much attention to what section I was reading so by the end of the third essay, I was feeling quite uncomfortable.
“Is this entire book just her sexual history laid out on the page?” I thought.
Then of course I went back and looked at the section title and realized her opening with this section was quite genius. She let’s you know what you are getting yourself into from the get go. She lays it all out there on the table, all the gory details the movies like to edit out about sex. She tells how she navigated the first few awkward hook ups and perfectly documents her relationships, all messy mistakes and all.
You can’t help but giggle and smile and somehow find a way to relate her tales to your own escapades.
The rest of the book is equally as honest. There are lengthier essays that hit on heavier topics, with the perfect touch of sarcastic, dry humor. There are essays that are no more than lists. There are essays that you have to wonder if she made up.
The best part about this is that she isn’t trying to be funny. She just is. She is just honest enough to make you laugh –slightly out of discomfort. She says what we are all trying to say. I found myself nodding a lot as I read this. As well as laughing out loud –maybe don’t read this book in public.
Some of her essays made me feel less alone. In “‘Diet’ is a four letter word: how to remain 10 lbs overweight only eating healthy food” she perfectly lays out early obsessions with food and documenting what you eat. Without coming out and saying it, she points out how ridiculous the notion of eating half a grape for breakfast is. How ridiculous our obsession with body image is.
I think, in fact, that the best parts of this book are the parts that are left unsaid.
The cute illustrations throughout are a plus, too.
There were passages that felt like reading out of one of my old journals. There were passages that talked about things I had never experienced yet still felt like I could relate to because she painted a perfect picture of it.
There were passages that made me feel less crazy, such as “Hello Mother, Hello Father: greetings from Fernwood Cove Camp for Girls.” She talks about how the stories we hear sometimes get blended and blurred into our own memories. Something that sounds so crazy to say out loud, but she somehow found a way to explain it and let me know I’m not alone.
Furthermore, I loved the work section where she was brutally honest without naming names. She shows that being honest and speaking your truth doesn’t mean that you have to destroy someone else. Stories often have the same amount of impact whether we know who they are about or not. Although, Lena, I can’t wait until you’re 80. What can I say, I’m curious for you to name those names!
Overall, this book is like eating a piece of chocolate cake. It begs to be devoured at once yet you want to savor it and take small, dainty bites. You distract yourself taking a picture of it, scrolling through Instagram in between bites, ponder the idea of saving a bite for your friend but ultimately eat it before they get back from the bathroom.
It’s just that good.