Boris Kachka of New York Magazine reports on newly released book titles and the world of publishing in The Book Reader.
Lena Dunham, the polarizing 28-year-old creator of HBO’s Girls, has lot of baggage.
"I think that I may be the voice of my generation. Or at least a voice of a generation," she writes.
In "Not That Kind of Girl," her very candid and surprisingly affecting new memoir, she gets to unpack. We’ll see if Dunham’s rabid fan base justifies her multi-million-dollar book advance, because "Not That Kind of Girl" isn’t for every kind of reader. But it’s exactly Dunham’s refusal to please everyone that makes her work such a pleasure to begin with.
No one should be surprised that the woman who bares herself physically, warts and all, in nearly every episode of her hipster comedy of manners tends to over-share in her memoir. More striking than the book’s revelations—the drugs and the therapy and all that sloppy sex—are the writer’s self-awareness and control. “I am twenty years old and I hate myself,” Dunham begins, and right away we know we’re in for a look behind the facade of her “aggressive self-acceptance.”
Dunham’s best chapters are playful and fresh. There’s a diet journal with a killer punch line, and an unhinged email to an ex-boyfriend complete with footnotes. Dunham does tend to go on about her jerky exes, but at least one twist puts her nearly in the league of her late mentor, Nora Ephron. Not far into the book, a light anecdote about an awkward college hook-up gets retold, some pages later, as a much darker encounter. Finally, our serial blabber drops the routine, cops to her evasions, and opens up a deeper vein.
The source of so much Lena backlash is her supposed millennial entitlement, stemming from her elite Tribeca upbringing. Dunham faces it head-on, without apologies. This isn’t your typical girl-in-the-city memoir, filled with cutesy self-deprecation and jokes that scream, “I’m just like you!” Dunham isn’t just like you. She’s more like Woody Allen—a self-involved urban neurotic, sometimes irritating but always unique. Unlike Allen, though, she wants to peel away every layer, to make you see her exactly as she is.
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