Editorial: Lena Dunham and NOT THAT KIND OF GIRL

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Lena Dunham’s collection of essays are unabashedly personal.  While being unique to Dunham and her own brand of special, her thoughts on love and sex, body image, and being a young woman inspired introspection and memories for me, but maybe not in the typical self-help fashion.  Not That Kind of Girl is not a self-help book–it’s a memoir of Lena’s life so far, a glimpse into her mind and all the never-ending thoughts, embarrassing situations, and hurdles as she has experienced them. Lena is talked about, judged, and maybe even idolized.  So here I’m pondering some of the things said about Not That Kind of Girl and Lena Dunham and Girls and telling you to read this book.

Five things being said about Not That Kind of Girl:

1. “One suspects that Ms. Dunham did not quite know what she wanted this book to be. It reads like a memoir, divided by sections titled ‘Love and Sex,’ ‘Body,’ ‘Friendship,’ ‘Work’ and ‘Big Picture,’ but it is packaged like a self-help book…Yet what she offers instead is a scattered gathering of sad anecdotes.” Jessica Kashmer-Jacobs, The Wall Street Journal

Deep ponderings: While some of the essays seem to be torn from a page in Lena’s diary (or a napkin where she jotted down “What’s in My Bag”) what the WSJ cites as “sad anecdotes”, (“Igor: Or My Internet Boyfriend Died and So Can Yours”) seems completely understandable to the children who grew up with AIM. Dunham begins that essay with, “The computers just show up one day.  We come in from recess, and there they are…” and later “In fifth grade we all get screen names…It takes me a a little while to wrap my head around the idea of anonymity.  Of people I can’t see who can’t see me.  Of being seen without being seen at all.” The beauty of Dunham’s writing is its familiarity and then the shock of the incongruous and perverse things she says, thinks, and does.

2. “Lena Dunham’s new book is out, titled “Not That Kind of Girl.” Honey, for a $3.7 million advance, I’d be whatever kind of girl you want!” Bette Midler @BetteMidler

Deep ponderings: “Did you ever know that you’re my hero? And everything I would like to be? I can fly higher than an eagle.  Because you are the wind beneath my wings.” Okay, Bette, you said it.  She got a crazy advance.  And maybe in writing this memoir, Dunham fell into the familiar traps of celebrity memoir–cutesy lists, a theme, illustrations–but when you strip it down, the majority of the essays are well-written, engaging, and agenda-free.

3. “Where once misery memoirs were the vogue in the publishing world, now it is books by young women writing about what is usually described as ‘all their flaws’, which means everything that happens in their vaginas, from masturbation to menstruation, from sex to cystitis. Clit lit, I guess.” Hadley Freedman, The Guardian 

Deep ponderings: Woah, there! Clit lit?! Freedman goes on to say “Some commentators have argued that clit lit it [sic] is helpful to teenage girls because it teaches them that bad sex is par for the course. But the other side of the coin is that this genre suggests the only truly interesting thing about a woman is her most intimate personal life.” It seems to me that your sexual history is inextricably linked to the person you are–your orientation, the sex you engage in, and your past sexual encounters may not define a person but they stick with you. Reducing this memoir to clit lit is shortsighted and looks at only a sliver of what Dunham has presented for us.  At the same time, critics (and readers) seem unable to explicate the Dunham of this memoir from the celebrity or from the fictional character of Hannah.

4.”You can say a lot of things about Lena Dunham: just don’t say she doesn’t know what time it is or what room she’s in.” Lena Dunham, Stylist

Deep ponderings: An alternative to reading this book is reading alllllll the stuff on the internet about or by Dunham.  Here are some favorites: Buzzfeed, More Buzzfeed, HuffPo, The New Yorker.

5.”But in order to enjoy Not That Kind of Girl, we must dissolve the ‘you’re either with us or against us’ critical barrier around Dunham. She did not come first, and she will not be last, but she has earned the right to be listened to, to be judged on the quality of her writing, even when what we read sounds familiar. If we continue to view her solely through the prism of her fame, to interpret her every blink as a bellwether of modern feminism, Lena Dunham will become, paradoxically, impossible to hear.” Sloane Crosley, New York Times

Deep ponderings: That’s what I’m trying to say!

The deets:
Random House
265 pages
September 2014
Order Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned”

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