Today I’d like to tell you about a non-fiction book that I really really enjoyed reading. Not that kind of girl is a collection of autobiographical essays written by Lena Dunham, the creator of the series Girls – that’s for the short version, the long version would rather be: executive producer, writer and director of Girls.
Lena Dunham is a well-known figure that I hugely estimate and respect for her work on Girls. I am a big fan of this series for its offbeat humour and I really like the fact that in this series Lena Dunham shows us things “as they are”, as closely to her daily experience of love, friendship and so on as possible. I think that this series is a kind of OVNI in the series’ scene. It was described by the critics as an anti-Sex and the city, and I agree with that. There is in Girls something truly refreshing and authentic, and this is what makes it quite unique.
As you may have understood by now, I was really looking forward to reading this autobiographical essays and hoped to find in them the same offbeat humour and self-mockery that characterize Girls. And I was not disappointed —actually, now that I am thinking about it, the only thing that slightly disappointed me is that Lena Dunham talks very little about how she created Girls. Lena Dunham knows how to write (and, for information, her long-time dream was to become a writer, and she graduated with a creative writing degree from Oberlin College). Her essays are sharp, bitter, funny and always highly entertaining.
The book is divided in 5 sections comprising several essays sharing a common topic. The first section of the book is devoted to love & sex, the second one is called “Body”, the third one “Friendship”. The last two sections are called “Work” and “Big Picture”. All these essays are not equally rich but most of them really make a point. And Lena Dunham is such a writer that she manages to make all the smallest events of her life look interesting and exciting. Only she can almost move us to tears telling us how a teacher allowed the little lonely schoolgirl that she was to like school again before turning this character into a potential paedophile.
As I was saying, all of her essays make us think, in their own way and despite their apparent lightness. Lena Dunham is a very honest writer. She tells us everything, does not try to hide what is not glamourous or to make things look more beautiful. She is honest, and sometimes even crude. Her essays point very accurately what being a young woman working in a very masculine world means, but also simply what being a woman struggling to accept herself means. If this book can be enjoyed by quite a wide readership for its significant insight of the Hollywood-movie/series industry and its reflexion on creation, I think it will especially appeal to women. I have to say that I recognized myself in almost every page I read. Without giving any answer, this book points out the different problems or dilemmas every 21st century young woman may face one day through Lena Dunham’s personal experience. In several parts of this book, we can read through the lines that Lena Dunham is finally calmed, has reached her own personal balance both in her private life and in her work. And it feels really good to see that you are not alone and that everything can happen, even when you are a socially unadapted women attracted to jerks who has a crazy career’s dreams.
To conclude and because I would feel guilty not to tell you about this: Not that kind of girl is illustrated with very cute and funny drawings made by Joana Avillez. These drawings are very small and don’t overpower the text. On the contrary, they add a little and subtle touch of freshness and femininism to Lena Dunham’s essays while merging really well with the text.
Here are a few extracts randomly picked up from this wonderful book.
For a long time, I wasn’t sure if I liked sex. I liked everything that led up to it: the guessing, the tentative, loaded interactions, the stilted conversation on the cold walks home, looking at myself in the mirror in someone else’s closet-sized bathroom. I liked the glimpse it gave me into my partner’s subconscious, which was maybe the only time I actually believed anyone besides me even existed. I liked the part where I got the sense that someone else could, maybe even did, desire me. But sex itself was a mystery. Nothing quite fit.
A friend once told me that when you’ve been in AA, drinking is never fun again. And that’s how I feel about having seen a nutritionist—I will never again approach food in an unbridled, guild-free way. And that’s okay, but I think of those college years as the time before I was expelled from Eden.
I was unemployed. And while I had a roof over my head (my parents’) and food to eat (also technically theirs), my days were shapeless, and the disappointment of the people who loved me (my parents) was palpable. I slept until noon, became defensive when asked about my plans for the future, and gained weight like it was a viable profession. I was becoming the kind of adult parents worry about producing.
Not that kind of girl by Lena Dunham. Published by Fourth Estate (2014)