I fell in love with Lena Dunham after reading her New Yorker piece, “A Box Full of Puppies”, in which she waxes eloquent on her love of dogs, and her rescued mutt Lamby. I expected NOT THAT KIND OF GIRL to be similar in tone to her article – funny and touching. But the majority of it was neither.
Hype for Dunham’s memoir began building when her $3.7 million book proposal was leaked, and didn’t die down much before its release this September. Maybe this is a case of impossibly high expectations resulting in inevitable disappointment (see: Casual Vacancy, Obama). The book is theoretically framed as an “advice manual” for women, inspired by Helen Gurly Brown’s HAVING IT ALL. But other than a few interspersed listicles, the book was less advice, more scattered stories with little sense of purpose or drive.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some truly tweet-worthy funny gems, such as: “he called me horrible names when I broke up with him for a Puerto Rican named Joe with a tattoo that said ‘mom’ in Comic Sans” (70). Unbelievable, yet somehow, I believe it. But a collection of tweets does not a memoir make, and all the funny moments are hard to find between meandering stories and a ten page (!!) reprinting of her food diary from 2010 (88-98). I wonder if this book was rushed through publication, as it seems to suffer from a lack of editing.
I wanted Dunham to use her lauded platform to give me something more. She has received more heat than most people in the public eye, and I would have enjoyed to hear how this has effected her self-perception, or her perception of her work. Or how she landed her HBO show in the first place, and about her writing and production process. I felt she was trying to downplay her success in order to appear more like the “every girl” she wants to appeal to.
After finishing her 265-page book, I knew more about Dunham’s history, her traumas, her anxieties. But I still don’t feel like I knew her in a more meaningful way. I guess I’m still asking the question: what kind of girl are you, Lena?