Jenny Slate on Little Weirds and looking back at trauma from the other side
Jenny Slate may be an artist in every sense of the word, but she isn't a masochist. Her book Little Weirds grapples with big pain (a recent divorce) and big questions about life and the state of the world (why did we elect a misogynist to the White House?), and it could be easy to mistake her for the kind of creative who basks in melancholy, a comedian with a very dark side.
"When I think of those times, I'm really glad I'm not in them," she says of Weirds' source material, to set the record straight. "In fact I described it to my therapist yesterday as: The feeling that I have is that I'm watching an 8-year-old standing outside of her school, wondering if someone's going to pick her up."
Slate, 38, describes the period in her life that inspired the book — her early-to-mid-thirties — as imperative to who she is today, but dark nonetheless: "I'm glad they happened, but I regret some of the damage I caused to myself by being reckless or drunk, and it sucks that the doorway I went through to be here in my safe, sunny life was really smoggy and cobwebby and scary and gross."
Little Weirds just released in paperback, which should bring Slate's very specific brand of self-reflection, comedy, and magical realism (there's no Marcel the Shell With Shoes On, but you're close if that came to mind) to an even wider audience. To mark the edition, Slate joined EW to discuss the personal and political heartache that fueled her writing, her time spent crafting sentences in a barren beach cottage, her astrological chart (she's an Aries, which which is covered in Little Weirds' several birth-themed entries), and more.
"I feel like Mars, like turmoil," she says when describing a recent visit to an astrologer (this is also where we mention she's back in Los Angeles after a stint on the East Coast). "But I don't want to sustain any more emotional injury. So I find different ways to be that same kind of hot-blooded warrior."
This isn't a spoiler alert, but Little Weirds has a happy ending. That shouldn't come as much of a surprise, given that the author has been open, off the page, about her engagement to art curator Ben Shattuck (a relationship that began as she finished writing the book), but it feels like a pertinent thing to mention. "I wouldn't write the same book now, because the issues are all something that in one way or another have been kind of resolved," Slate says. "And I think that what I felt at the time was that there was a really dangerous example of a male leader who is leading on impulse alone — and I want to show an example of impulse that is kind and considerate and comes from years of developing a voice and a sense of responsibility towards other people. I was just really frantic for kindness towards myself and towards the world."
Watch the video above for more from Slate.