Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned” by Lena Dunham
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This books is mostly like a count-down of things that Dunham’s done or not done, things she cries about and decries; her style of writing is very western, in the sense that she’s a privileged person who has her neuroses, much like a modern-day Woody Allen in her way.
Basically, any paragraph from this book works as a reference to how Dunham writes. For example:
You wouldn’t know it to see me at a party. In a crowd I am recklessly cheerful, dressed to the nines in thrift-shop gowns and press-on fingernails, fighting the sleepiness that comes from the 350 milligrams of medication I take every night. I dance the hardest, laugh the hardest at my own jokes, and make casual reference to my vagina, like it’s a car or a chest of drawers. I got mono last year, but it never really went away.
A line like the following is interesting:
He had the severe face and impossibly great hair of Alain Delon but said “wicked” more than most French New Wave actors.
I mean, it’s like a stream-of-consciousness way of looking into Dunham’s head but I’m slightly irritated by the anecdote itself. I can’t really explain it. It’s just me.
Other times, I think her style works very well (for me):
There was a particularly raucous party in the loft above the video store. I wore Audrey’s fancy wrap dress, and we drank two beers each before we left and split a Xanax she still had from a flight to Boca with her grandma. It hit me hard and fast, and by the time we showed up I was possessed by a party spirit quite alien to me. Audrey, on the other hand, became dizzy and after much deliberation went home, making me promise to treat her wrap dress with the proper respect. I missed her keenly for a moment, then snorted a small amount of cocaine off a key, before kissing a freshman and dancing into the bathroom line, where I showed people how easily Audrey’s wrap dress opened and explained how “bogus” the creative writing department was.
I love her TV series “Girls”, and this book kind of hammers in the sensitivites of the series in a good way, while being prolix and slightly too nagging for my taste. Apart from that, I must say that Duhham throws a lot of insight into her daily thoughts, her sexuality and everyday ways, fears and emotions, which I seldom see. I can get really bothered with her nagging, but her insight makes this book almost a complement to Tina Fey’s “Bossypants“, as written by somebody who’s along the same walk of life as Dunham, but older and perhaps wiser.
I also like Dunham’s way of responding to people thinking she’s “brave” for revealing her body on screen:
And my mother always knew that, hence her Nikon raised high and pointed right into the mirror. She sensed that by documenting her own body, she was preserving her history. Beautifully. Nakedly. Imperfectly. Her private experiment made way for my public one. Another frequently asked question is how I am “brave” enough to reveal my body on-screen. The subtext there is definitely how am I brave enough to reveal my imperfect body, since I doubt Blake Lively would be subject to the same line of inquiry. I am forced to engage in regular conversation about my body with strangers, such as the drunken frat boy on MacDougal Street who shouted, “Your tits look like my sister’s!” My answer is: It’s not brave to do something that doesn’t scare you. I’d be brave to skydive. To visit a leper colony. To argue a case in the United States Supreme Court or to go to a CrossFit gym. Performing in sex scenes that I direct, exposing a flash of my weird puffy nipple, those things don’t fall into my zone of terror. A few years ago, after I screened Tiny Furniture for the first time, I was standing outside the theater in Austin when a teenage boy approached me. He was tiny. Really tiny. The kind of tiny that, as a teenage boy, must be painful. He looked like a Persian cat’s toy mouse. “Excuse me,” he said shyly. “I just wanted you to know how much it meant to me to see you show your body in that way. It made me feel so much better about myself.” The first result of this was that I pictured him naked, which was stressful. The second was extreme gratitude: for his generosity in sharing, for my ability to have any impact on the body image of this obviously cool and open young gentleman (after all, he was seeing a fringe women’s-interest film on a school night). “Thank you so much.” I beamed. “You’re really hot.”
And I do love the complain-with-your-friends bits at times:
We often spent Isabel’s lunch break in Pecan, a local coffee bar where we disturbed yuppies on laptops with our incessant—and filthy—chatter. “I can’t find a goddamn fucking job and I’m too fat to be a stripper,” I said as I polished off a stale croissant.
This book’s funny and entertaining.
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