Monday, November 3, 2014


I finally finished reading, 'Not that Kind of Girl", by Lena Dunham. I thought I was going to tear through this one at lightening speed, but through both the nature of busy weeks and the feeling that I kept getting that I was disserving the whole experience by reading it on the Kindle rather than the tactile version, it took me much longer than expected. In the weeks that it took me to finish, apparently everyone else (bloggers) was reading it too and also taking photos like the one above, announcing their participation. 

The book is broken out into five sections according to theme - love and sex, body, friendship, work, and big picture, and not having the physical book to be able to refer to for the division of sections was surprisingly annoying. It did the unfortunate thing of making the individual vignettes feel disjointed, (especially because I was reading small sections as a time, rather than in big chunks) and ocassionally I got the feeling of being tossed from one memory to the next. I couldn't easily look back a few pages to remember that oh right this is the section about work, which is why this chapter entitled 'emails I would send if I were one ounce crazier/angrier/braver' is right after one entitled '17 things I learned from my father' which follows, 'little leather gloves, the joy of wasting time.' There is one section where it is just pages of her food diary, and at first, I was intrigued, then exasperated, then wondering why the editor let all that stay in, and then I skipped it. 

But the joy of Lena Dunham is that she has a voice and she has a certain way of saying things, and I find that appealing. I was probably going to read this book no matter what, because I like Lena Dunham, I admire her candor, her willingness to be vulnerable for her art and her humor. It's interesting to me that she is so confident with her words and her vision. It's true that I also can't help but be intrigued with what it must have been like to grow up as a child of artists in New York City, but that sort of thing mattered less than how she was saying all of it. Much of her upbringing is so far removed from my own, and there a plenty of things that got me eye rolling and dramatic sighing, but that's not a bad reason to read a memoir in of itself: that fascination with someone who thinks and operates so differently from you, but can say and carry out things with such confidence and zeal. But then again, you probably only read memoirs of people you like or are fascinated with in the first place, right? So, there's that, but all of this could be a whole other conversation about our culture's obsession with celebrity. 

All that being said, I read this memoir like a lesson in vulnerability and voice. I studied the content wondering about the things she chose to share, observed the sentence structure, making notes of the twists and turns it takes. I like how there are surprises in her sentences. I like the attention to detail, albeit selective detail. I wondered how much of her recollections were true and how much of it were exaggerated (I can't help wonder this during most memoirs I read). 

As unique as her life experiences are, the strength of her book is that it reminded me of what is appealing about a Judy Blume book - a mid-twenties version- which heralds the message of 'hey you are not alone!' The subsections are broad and general, topics that all twenty-somethings have to experience, and this is her take on it. She makes that clear from the beginning:

"No I am not a expert, a psychologist or a dietician. I am not a mother of three or the owner of a successful hosiery franchise. But I am a girl with a keen interest in having it all, and what follows are hopeful dispatches from the front lines of that struggle "

* Mygod, isn't that all of us? If written well, I would probably read anything that was some woman's struggle to have it all. And all the lessons in between.
** In regards to a recommendation, I say, read this book if you like Lena Dunham. Otherwise, it's too easy to hate this book. Many times, it feels like you are reading her diary, which can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on what camp you are in. 
*** This is just me jotting down some thoughts about my reaction to a book. I wish it were more organized and that I had more time to flesh out my thoughts, but jumbled assortments is better than nothing to a brain that needs to write like a sedentary person needs to exercise. 
**** Speaking of writing essays about finding yourself in New York City, two really good ones that I do highly recommend: 

Joan Didion: 

And this more recent one by Zadie Smith, that writes about something that is age old at this point, but the skill in which it is written has me hanging on to every word and loving the ride. 


  1. i read the excerpt of her book in the new yorker and did not like it, so i didnt read it, HOWEVER, i did read amy pohler's book, yes, please!, have you read it?

  2. you know what's the best thing i read lately and also it is perfect: lila by marilynne robinson