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#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Includes two new essays!
NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY MICHIKO KAKUTANI, THE NEW YORK TIMES • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY BUZZFEED, THE GLOBE AND MAIL, AND LIBRARY JOURNAL
For readers of Nora Ephron, Tina Fey, and David Sedaris, this hilarious, wise, and fiercely candid collection of personal essays establishes Lena Dunham—the acclaimed creator, producer, and star of HBO’s Girls—as one of the most original young talents writing today.
In Not That Kind of Girl, Dunham illuminates the experiences that are part of making one’s way in the world: falling in love, feeling alone, being ten pounds overweight despite eating only health food, having to prove yourself in a room full of men twice your age, finding true love, and most of all, having the guts to believe that your story is one that deserves to be told.
“Take My Virginity (No Really, Take It)” is the account of Dunham’s first time, and how her expectations of sex didn’t quite live up to the actual event (“No floodgate had been opened, no vault of true womanhood unlocked”); “Girls & Jerks” explores her former attraction to less-than-nice guys—guys who had perfected the “dynamic of disrespect” she found so intriguing; “Is This Even Real?” is a meditation on her lifelong obsession with death and dying—what she calls her “genetically predestined morbidity.” And in “I Didn’t F*** Them, but They Yelled at Me,” she imagines the tell-all she will write when she is eighty and past caring, able to reflect honestly on the sexism and condescension she has encountered in Hollywood, where women are “treated like the paper thingies that protect glasses in hotel bathrooms—necessary but infinitely disposable.”
Exuberant, moving, and keenly observed, Not That Kind of Girl is a series of dispatches from the frontlines of the struggle that is growing up. “I’m already predicting my future shame at thinking I had anything to offer you,” Dunham writes. “But if I can take what I’ve learned and make one menial job easier for you, or prevent you from having the kind of sex where you feel you must keep your sneakers on in case you want to run away during the act, then every misstep of mine will have been worthwhile.”
Praise for Not That Kind of Girl
“The gifted Ms. Dunham not only writes with observant precision, but also brings a measure of perspective, nostalgia and an older person’s sort of wisdom to her portrait of her (not all that much) younger self and her world. . . . As acute and heartfelt as it is funny.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“It’s not Lena Dunham’s candor that makes me gasp. Rather, it’s her writing—which is full of surprises where you least expect them. A fine, subversive book.”—David Sedaris
“This book should be required reading for anyone who thinks they understand the experience of being a young woman in our culture. I thought I knew the author rather well, and I found many (not altogether welcome) surprises.”—Carroll Dunham
“Witty, illuminating, maddening, bracingly bleak . . . [Dunham] is a genuine artist, and a disturber of the order.”—The Atlantic
Reviewed by Rachel Deahl. Filmmaker (Tiny Furniture) and TV creator (Girls) Dunham has been compared to all manner of comic intellectual impresarios, from Woody Allen to Nora Ephron and Tina Fey. This makes it all the more delightful that Dunham mines her first book from an unexpected source: Helen Gurley Brown's Having It All, which she stumbled upon in a thrift store in college. Dunham hopes that her collection of personal essays will do for its intended readers the young and female what the one-time Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief's 1982 guide did for her. Having It All is, Dunham admits, full of mostly dated and "bananas" advice on everything from dieting to man pleasing but it imparted an important takeaway: meek women can inherit success, love, and self-worth, if not the Earth. Dunham is not unlike these women (or "Mouseburgers," in Brown's words), who can, she explains, "triumph, having lived to tell the tale of being overlooked and underloved." She breaks her book into sections ("Love & Sex," "Body," "Work," etc.) and offers tales of her own experiences being overlooked and underloved. If that sounds corny or overly earnest, the essays that compose the book are neither. They're dark, discomforting, and very funny. Whether discussing her forays into yo-yo dieting (" Diet' Is a Four-Letter Word") or the time she thinks she might have been raped ("Barry"), Dunham is expert at combining despair and humor. Describing a misanthropic ex, she writes: "His critical nature proved suffocating he hated my skirts, my friends, and my work. He hated rom-coms and just plain coms." The book is filled with amusing phrases like this one, as Dunham delivers sad and probably, for many readers, sadly familiar tales of hating her body and trying too hard to make undeserving men love her. Dunham is an oddly polarizing figure in today's culture maybe because she's too young and successful; maybe because she gets conflated her with Hannah Horvath, her self-involved character on Girls; or maybe simply because her detractors are louder than her fans but hopefully this won't keep readers away from this collection. It would be a shame, because the book is touching, at times profound, and deeply funny. It also addresses something that other female funny people of Dunham's stature do not. The myth, as Gurley Brown and others have laid it out, is that we can shed our Mouseburger selves to become something better. While Dunham is eager for that something better, she doesn't want to lose sight of the Mouseburger inside. This is one of the things she grapples with throughout these essays: how we become accepted and loved and popular, without casting aside, or trying to hide, the unloved, unpopular people we once were. In fact, Dunham seems to want to revel in the dark spaces the terrifying and awkward moments in life which is pretty great. Not only does this provide her wonderful material, but it's an invigorating, refreshing slap in the face to a world that is so unwelcoming to all the amusing, sweet, smart Mouseburgers out there. Rachel Deahl is PW's News Director.