What We're Reading Now: 'Not That Kind of Girl' by Lena Dunham
Another week, another handful of days spent pacing the halls and circling the conference rooms asking everyone if they were finished with their copy of Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl. They all said variations of “no” and “stop asking” until Matt finally asked me a question I wasn’t really ready for: “Why don’t you go buy it at the store?”
No good answer there, so I went and picked one up.
Then, rather than tear into it, I just stared at it for days. I’d go over, grab it, sit down, read the dedication and then pull up Lena on Instagram, which would lead to scrolling through Jack Antonoff’s life, which would somehow result in being on Kendall Jenner’s page, and then it’d be time for bed. Or, I’d go over, read the quotes on the back cover and turn on HBOGo (and not watch Girls, which I had never actually seen prior to this week).
In Leah Greenblatt’s review of Not That Kind of Girl, she pointed out that however you feel about Lena Dunham, you’ll feel the same about this book. The problem I encountered in starting this was that I have no opinion of Dunham. I don’t follow Girls, and the regularity with which someone says, “I assume you watch Girls…” and then launches into a description of their favorite episode and how it relates to me only pushes me farther and farther away from trying. I don’t follow her on any social media (hence my Instagram perusal taking so long). How else do people encounter her? At awards shows? Yeah, I hate generally dislike her dresses, but not enough to hate her.
For some reason it felt uncomfortable to just launch into a collection of deeply personal essays and meet her there. But, as soon becomes apparent, there is no other way to encounter her. She is, as Leah says, “a chronic oversharer.” There is no “getting to know her” phase. There is losing her virginity, tales of learning to masturbate, and a lot of space for her wildly meandering thoughts.
I relate to almost nothing in this book in terms of plot-points and I find it hard to read more than one or two essays in a sitting. They feel final, and at times her glib attitude goes from funny to grating if I press through too many pages. But — and this is a very big but — I will probably read this book more than once, certainly passages of it. I will absolutely share it with my, um, girls. I have now watched three episodes of Girls this week and find her more accessible and funny on the page than in my living room. I reject her as my ‘everyman’ (no matter how many demographic checkboxes I share with Hannah) — thankfully, she tries checking fewer boxes in Not That Kind of Girl than on HBO. In the book, she is more singular: Lena Dunham, her story — not the story of “a generation.”
So, where does that leave me on Lena Dunham? I still don’t know if I tip in any significant direction on the love/loathe scale, but what I know is, she is here to stay. This will not be her last book. She will be in more TV shows. She will certainly still dress the way she dresses on the red carpet. She will continue to be everywhere, so we might as well all get to know her.
Anyone else reading it? Thoughts?