Samantha Irby starts this one with a bang. Last night I was forced into the world to go grab another keyboard (even though I'd already ordered one that would arrive sometime this morning.) I was in my PJs, settling in for a night of reheated pizza, catching up on my book reviews, reading and early sleep, when I realized I could no longer type spaces. So I threw on some black work boots, grabbed the audio-sync for this one and ran out the door. I was only going one place: keyboard & home! Except it took me twice as long as it should have because of Samantha Irby's first chapter, "My Bachelorette Application."
I should stop here to tell you I've never been to Samantha Irby's blog, never heard of her before a crazed cat started showing up in my recommendations everywhere, never read anything from her before last night. But I have now seen the light. Read on.
Lord, she had me rolling in the car. I was laughing so hard tears streamed down my face and I started to choke. I sat in the car howling like a loon outside of the store in 10 degree (or some godforsaken) weather. I don't know how anyone could find that chapter in particular not funny. I devised a new movement to push Chicago closer to Baltimore so Irby and I could be neighbors and neither of us have to get dressed or leave our apartments.
Since I was creating new maps, I also devised a "need" to stop at both Starbucks and Walgreens, with driving between the two, so I could listen more, and I sat outside of Starbucks ordering a coffee from my phone so I wouldn't miss anything.
She's SO right about, well, everything in that chapter. She's honest but not bogged down with ego issues that make her pretend to be anything less than a fiercely smart woman. As we would have said when I was a kid, "there's no shame in her game," and man, I needed to laugh like that. I don't want to quote because I'd end up quoting half the book. But do yourself a favor and if you can, listen to at least that first chapter.
She wants "someone who will leave her alone for extended periods of time" in a relationship. I concur. She "pretends to be interested" in lots of things, like "world issues" and "social justice" but really she just wants to watch TV and stay inside. She also has a perspective on why The Bachelorette is basically a radical feminist show (my words, not hers - she's funny.) She convinced me. I've never watched it, but I may need to. Especially since once Chicago moves closer, she apparently will watch Shark Tank with me!
I may be predisposed to love this book because I, too, am a wild child who was not raised by my parents or wolves. I too prefer saying inside. I too “shot a rod” through the engine of my car once because I had no idea oil changes were “a thing.” I too have bad credit because I thought it would be smart to simply ignore checking accounts once they ran out of money. I too think marriage and parenting are hard, expensive and notice that all my friends/family who have done that look irritated and exhausted all the time. I too am pretty sure I’d kill any PTA mom if forced to deal with her and her nut allergies these days. I, too, have given up on pleasing others and I’m increasingly happy with that decision. I have always said that if I’d ever had kids, I would have left them somewhere with my keys long ago anyway.
I did question some things about the book. I don't believe Fred (Chapter 2) really had curtains. That's just unrealistic to a point where, unless he's gay and a decorator, I don't buy it. I'm a 50-something woman and *I* don't have curtains. (Blinds rock, and you don't have to wash them.) That's really the only thing that sounded too outlandish for me to believe in this whole adventure through Sam Irby's head. (I can call her Sam. We're practically sisters now. I might be stalking her on Goodreads, or not.)
OK, so seriously, it’s not all fun and games. There’s a tonal shift that doesn’t really work once she gets further into the book. She contradicts herself. She chastises people for their attitudes toward their own pets, then she does something pretty unthinkable. And this is where the tone doesn’t work. I couldn’t decide if she was being honest or just sticking to the heartless bitch character study when she isn’t crushed by putting her old sick cat “Helen Keller” down. I’ve had to put my “feline-children” down before, and the idea of walking out really turns me off. I’m as misanthropic as this writer, but this was her “cat-child” (her words this time) not a person, and I just don’t get it. I honestly don’t know if she’s doing comedy here or being honest. Once I started thinking about that, I wondered about the rest of the book and my review, but I gave up trying to figure it out. I’m just typing on my new keyboard...
Leaving that aside, it would be nigh impossible to stay as hilarious as the beginning without killing your readers, and it has some low points or things that just didn't work for me.
I would guess that the further you get from city-dwelling, worldly, different-from-the-majority, and skeptical curmudgeon or the closer you get to being worried about matching or what other people think, the less you will enjoy this. If you have a problem with cursing in any form by anyone, this is not the book for you. It's not gratuitous. There is a time and place for FUCK, but if one is even slightly uptight about those words, then the non-cursing parts might throw you for a huge loop.
One final but very serious thing: DO NOT READ THIS BOOK if you are easily grossed out or again, if you have a hard time with explicit clarity about bodies and words. I’m serious. I am going to blog hard about Amazon “reviews” someday, but before I do, I just need to note the undercurrent of racism in the Amazon “review” universe. Most of the people who hated this book didn’t like her use of “the English language” or found her subject matter objectionable or don’t like the cursing. Did they bother to read the blurb or ANY of the reviews? And how do you leave a nasty review about a book you didn’t read more than a few pages of?
This one really just takes the cake: I’m quoting from an Amazon 1-star review:
When I hear "funny book" I think David Sedaris, Adam Carolla, Augustan [sic] Burroughs. No. This was just sad, angry, low-rent and pointless. She says she hates men, hates to learn, dislikes society in general, and automatically assumes all republicans or suburbanites are racist jerks who hate gays, blacks, the poor, etc. (she's afraid of moving to the suburbs because she knows she'll be called the "n-word." Really???
She says sexual things that are less shocking than they are gross and creepy. (Example: She has no guilt that her white girlfriend must deal with her hairy, yeasty, crotch; it's payback for Obama not getting blacks reparations for slavery. Yeah. It's there. Page 135.)
OK, first of all, it’s “Augusten Burroughs,” bitch. Second, I’d bet my white and black parts on this reviewer being a white woman. Third, [she] names three white men -- all of whom I’ve enjoyed greatly through the years -- as her benchmark, then acts shocked by the tastelessness she finds in Irby’s book? Those three white males have written some of the most raunchy pages in my memory, including straight scatology. Is it because she’s a woman that she is somehow expected not to have bodily functions? Is it her black “urban” self that is unacceptable? Carolla in particular is just pure misogynist at times, Burroughs writes explicitly of sex acts -- homosexual sex at that. I really cannot get my head around this one. I’ve never jerked off into a sock, but I don’t judge those guys for their normal human behavior simply because my experience is different. I would never have trashed a book because I find that sort of gross. Of course I do -- I’ve got lady parts! Maybe a woman should try writing a jerk-off book and see how that plays?
This is a woman who has lived and continues to do so. She's not doing it anybody's way except her own, and she really couldn’t give a shit if you approve. God bless the chile for figuring it out earlier than I did. Though this had high and low points, I’ll be reading more from her in the future.
A Few Great Chapter titles: