I posted an Instagram of Lena Dunham’s new book Not That Kind of Girl when I first started reading it, only a few days after it was released. A lot of people asked me to let them know how it was. So here’s my review:
I was super excited to get into the book, even though I’m completely unfamiliar with Lena’s work. I don’t watch Girls, and I never saw Tiny Furniture. But she and Mindy Kaling are pals, and I laughed out loud through Kaling’s Is Everyone is Hanging Out Without Me, so I thought I’d love this, as well.
The thing is, I didn’t love it. I didn’t even like it. I am, however, super curious now to watch Girls and see why Lena Dunham is hailed as a genius/goddess of my generation. Instead of going the comedy essay route, a la Mindy Kaling or Tina Fey’s Bossypants, Dunham went the memoir route. I guess she’s not that much of a comedian, so this makes sense, but unfortunately she’s not that much of a writer, either. The writing was mediocre, at best. (The stand out bit for me–the only profound bit in the book–“But I also consider being female such a unique gift, such a sacred joy, in ways that run so deep I can’t even articulate them. It’s a special kind of privilege to be born into the body you wanted, to embrace the essence of your gender even as you recognize what you are up against.” Damn good couple of lines.)
Dunham seemed to try to make up for that with a “tell-all” approach, mentioning several times throughout the book that she’s practically incapable of having secrets. So, tell-all for her means, basically, detailing sexual exploits, sexual self-discovery, fashion mistakes, melodramatic breakups, and all of the odd little one-paragraph anecdotes from childhood and her family of origin that she could fit into the nooks and crannies of the book.
But she fell into the common mistake of the memoirist: believing that just because something happened to her, it’s interesting. If a writer is fantastic at her craft, then she can make even the most run-of-the-mill experience profound or delightful for her reader. Dunham doesn’t have that kind of writing, so recounting her college escapades and personality quirks just fell flat.
In fact, her voice and her stories eventually became so grating that I started to feel like I was stuck on a road trip with a dramatic, exaggerating friend who won’t stop talking.
The worst part was that I approached the book with one question: how the hell did this girl get to where she is in her career? How did she become so successful? How did she convert the ennui of her early twenties into a critically-acclaimed TV show? I know I’m not the only one who came to the book with those questions.
Alas, alack. Despite Dunham’s multiple claims that she was holding nothing back, she held her most coveted secret deep inside, never even allowing the reader to get close to it. The book reeks of immaturity, displayed in the belief that her sexuality is the most interesting or entertaining thing about her. And yet, we know there’s so much more to Lena Dunham, for her to create what she has. By the time I finished the book, I couldn’t tell if she purposefully left out the meat of her story–ironically or defiantly–or if she has compartmentalized her life and her self so much that she was unaware she had left it out. Whatever the case, she definitely left me guessing.