“Let’s be reasonable and add an eighth day to the week that is devoted exclusively to reading.”
I met Lena Dunham yesterday. She is the author of Not That Kind Of Girl and the creator/writer/producer/star of the hit HBO show Girls. Her essays have been featured in places like The New York Times and The New Yorker. She is 28. A feminist. And unabashedly herself. A lot of people describe her as “intensely sexual,” which is really just another way of saying she’s honest. Her passions include animal rights, women’s rights, artistic freedom, and the very millennial idea of “being true to yourself.” I love her.
When it was my turn to stand clumsily in front of her at the book signing table, I thanked her for helping me be a better writer, awkwardly mentioned my Aztec print pants, and laughed when she added “hey pinkie” to my book because of my pink nails. She is warm and smart and when I walked away, my eyes filled with tears. At first I didn’t know why, but I then realized it was pride. She makes me proud to be both a woman and a writer and that is no small thing.
I read two books this month. A few weeks ago I was forced to read Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge for my local book club, and yesterday I read Lena’s book in a warm McDonalds in New York City while my phone charged and I waited to meet her (I finished it today).
These books are opposites from each other. One I definitely would recommend to my mother-in-law, and the other I definitely would not. Not surprisingly, I loved them both.
Here are my simple reviews (never spoilers).
1. Olive Kitteridge.
If You’re Looking For: Realistic fiction, intertwined short stories, gorgeous writing
My Review: A slow start followed by a series of stories so quietly moving that you don’t know you’re moved until days later when you’re showering and suddenly pondering the complexity of life. Haunting, funny, and true-to-life (for better or for worse). A beautiful and subtly heart-wrenching read.
Their Review: “The pleasure in reading Olive Kitteridge comes from an intense identification with complicated, not always admirable, characters. And there are moments in which slipping into a character’s viewpoint seems to involve the revelation of an emotion more powerful and interesting than simple fellow feeling — a complex, sometimes dark, sometimes life-sustaining dependency on others. There’s nothing mawkish or cheap here. There’s simply the honest recognition that we need to try to understand people, even if we can’t stand them.” – Louisa Thomas, New York Times
If You’re Looking For: Memoir, comedy, someone who would never use the phrase “TMI”
My Review: Dunham has made what are basically three versions of her autobiography by the age of 28: a film, three seasons of a TV show, and a book. So if you don’t like her show or don’t jive with someone describing the first time they masturbated, don’t read this book. Not That Kind Of Girl‘s strong points include childhood musings, observational humor, and funny lists. I love the book because I love her, but it is not a book to casually gift to your great aunt for hosting you for the weekend. Or maybe it is. Maybe that is the point. To put it simply, Lena’s words are exactly what I thought they would be: Quick, self-involved, conversational, and funny.
Their Review: “Very few women have become famous for being who they actually are, nuanced and imperfect. When honesty happens, it’s usually couched in self-ridicule or self-help. Dunham doesn’t apologize like that—she simply tells her story as if it might be interesting. Not That Kind of Girl is hilarious, artful, and staggeringly intimate; I read it shivering with recognition.” –Miranda July