We owe it to each other to tell stories - Neil Gaiman

Monday, 17 November 2014

Not that Kind of Girl - Lena Dunham

Title: Not that kind of Girl

Author: Lena Dunham

Pages: 227

Publisher: HarperCollins

Source: purchased ebook from Exclusives

The Synopsis

“There is nothing gutsier to me than a person announcing that their story is one that deserves to be told,” writes Lena Dunham, and it certainly takes guts to share the stories that make up her first book, Not that Kind of Girl. These are stories about getting your butt touched by your boss, about friendship and dieting (kind of) and having two existential crises before the age of 20. Stories about travel, both successful and less so, and about having the kind of sex where you feel like keeping your sneakers on in case you have to run away during the act. Stories about proving yourself to a room of 50-year-old men in Hollywood and showing up to “an outlandishly high-fashion event with the crustiest red nose you ever saw.” Fearless, smart, and as heartbreakingly honest as ever, Not that Kind of Girl establishes Lena Dunham as more than a hugely talented director, actress and producer-it announces her as a fresh and vibrant new literary voice. 

The Review

In the words of Hannah Horvath, Lena Dunham is “…the voice of our generation… or at least a voice of a generation”. Hannah Horvath, for those of you don’t know, is a character portrayed by Lena Dunham in Girls, a show written, produced and directed by Lena Dunham. What distinguishes Girls, and Hannah Horvath from other female characters that inhabit the landscape of popular culture is that they do not sugar coat anything. What sets Girls apart is that it is raw, it’s real, it’s a little uncomfortable at times, it can make you cringe, and it is so plausible. There are no perfect relationships between friends, families or dating couples. The dysfunctionality of life is an intangible character. Hannah’s struggles with her mental health and her strange and evolving relationship with Adam are a comfort after years of characters that have it all figured out and are just so cool and perfect.

 If Girls served as affirmation for many of us that it is okay to have weird relationships with your best friends, that it is okay to not be okay with relationships with your boyfriend or girlfriend and that it is not an unusual thing to be stuck about what to do career wise – then Not that kind of Girl is the Hail Mary that we have all been waiting for. Lena Dunham is even more candid in her book than the characters are on her show, with the show giving you a good introduction to who Lena Dunham is. Having said that, if you have watched Girls, you probably have a good idea who Lena Dunham is and how her thought processes work.

Not that Kind of Girl is divided into 5 sections - Love & Sex, Body, Friendship, Work and Big Picture - all of them very enlightening. Reading this has been like a conversation with a really cool counter culture kind of cousin or friend who is so okay with being different from everyone else that she makes you feel okay about being different too. 

I admire Lena for discussing death, such a difficult and sometimes even taboo topic to broach. Death is awkward; it comes suddenly even though we all know it’s inevitable – as she says “when it comes to death, none of us really have the words”. Death turns us all into a distant memory. Lena’s recollection of the death of her grandmother is so touching; one day she was there, the next she was gone, and it was just unfathomable how her life could be packed up so quickly. 

The only thing I wish she would have included in this book was the story behind her tattoos, she mentions it briefly on Girls, but it would have been nice if she had included an essay on that. Lena to me is fascinating. After years of therapy for her various problems, as well as a struggle with self-loathing she has emerged like a butterfly from a cocoon to tell us all that it is okay to be who we are – warts and all. We don’t have to all be swans, it is okay, and rather cool to be eccentric – which Lena defines as being someone “whose passions and predilections are so genuinely out of sync with the world at large that she herself becomes and object of fascination”.

So if you enjoyed Caitlin Moran’s How to be a Woman, and are looking for a book that is less an instruction guide and rather offers you a point of reference to say, ‘Yes! I am different. I can be different and there is nothing wrong with that!’ then Lena Dunham’s Not that Kind of Girl is the book for you!

About Lena Dunham

Lena Dunham is the creator of the critically acclaimed HBO series Girls, for which she also serves as executive producer, writer, and director. She has been nominated for eight Emmy awards and has won two Golden Globes, including Best Actress, for her work on Girls. She was the first woman to win the Directors Guild of America award for directorial achievement in comedy. Dunham has also written two feature-length films (including Tiny Furniture in 2011) and is a frequent contributor to The New Yorker. She lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

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