I rarely buy books new, hot off the press, but I couldn’t resist when I saw Dunham’s book Not That Kind of Girl at Powells earlier this month. I don’t know what exactly compelled me to buy it. I have read very few of Dunham’s articles. I very rarely follow what she’s saying in popular culture. I’ve only seen the first season of Girls, which is years behind in television culture.
There was something about the idea of a young women writing essays about life that drew me to the book. A young women who has been at this point in time culturally relevant, frequently discussed, and often debated. I hadn’t heard her voice, and I wanted to.
The book is split into five sections, each section with several chapters of it’s own relating to the topic heading.
- Love & Sex
- Big Picture
I was not surprised to experience similar feelings while reading the book as I experience when watching the television show Girls. It seems as though many of Dunham’s experiences with men and women, dating and fucking, are real experiences of hers. If you’re not a fan of the show, this can feel gratuitous. At times it felt absurd. But it was real. Throughout the book, it was real. And that is what I appreciated most about Dunham’s writing.
It read as a reflection of things I had already felt and experienced in my own life, while also being a stern reminder of all of the things I had somehow managed to escape.
It is not a book that all women will relate to, nor is it a book all men will see themselves in. I don’t think that this book intends to be the mirror with which we can see ourselves. I think the book intends to be one girls experience in life and love. And what it does, it does well.
Dunham does a good job of creating surprise in ways you wouldn’t expect to be surprised. Often times when I expected a dirty punchline, I instead found a deep kind of sadness. And even though all may not relate, it seems likely that you will find at least a little part of yourself in the book.
At one point Dunham describes a dream she has had:
“My most frequently recurring dream is one in which I suddenly remember I have a number of pets living in my home that I haven’t tended to in years. Rabbits, hamsters, iguanas, stacked in dirty cages in my closet or beneath my bed. Terrified, I open the door, and the light touches them for the first time in ages. Desperate, I dig through the clumped, wet wood chips. I’m afraid they’re decomposing in there, but I Find them still alive, thin and milky eyed and filthy. I know that I loved them once, that they had a better life before I got so distracted with work and myself and let them shrivel up and nearly die. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” I tell them as I clean their cages and fill their bottles with fresh water. “How can I make it up to you?” (pg 123)
I stopped and cried at the end of this chapter because this has been a reoccurring dream of mine as well. The details aren’t the same, but the story is. I’m at home and I realize that I have a cat. How could I forget I had a cat? I rummage through the house and find it, gently meowing, on the edge of death.
Dunham talks about relationships with family, curious experiences with the same sex, sexual experiences that range for unrequited love to assault to simply just bad. She talks about work and school, life in the city, friendship, and fame. Even if you have nothing in common with Dunham, you will likely find some part of yourself in the book too.
Ultimately, this book is about the absurdities of life. Some of the very real things I too have thought and wished I could say. The selfishness of growing up and learning, when the only way you can see the world is through your own eyes.
I would recommend it, and advise anyone who is curious to read it to go into it with an open mind. It’s just her story – let her tell it.