Tag Archives: essays

Review: Not That Kind of Girl

Recap: Lena Dunham is a woman who has something to say. Like her or not, she uses her platform to proudly proclaim her thoughts and opinions and is willing to use any medium available to do it. Her book of essays is no exception. After years of fictionalizing semi-autobiographical vignettes of women in their twenties on her TV show Girls, she put her pen to the page in this more honestly revealing look at her life to date. She acknowledges that she is young and has so much more to go, and reading her book five years after publication proves as much. In some ways, it’s dated already. Since publication, Dunham and her long-term boyfriend, who is openly written about in several essays, broke up. She also had several major medical emergencies and surgeries and became clean and sober. Her life proves that much of what you think you know in your twenties gets flipped on its head by the time you turn 30.

But as “dated” as the book is in terms of the plot twists of her personal life is how timeless the book is at the same time. She writes openly about losing her virginity, sexual assault, falling in love, falling out of love, breakup with guys, breakups with friends, the power of female friendship, the seemingly always difficult relationship women have with food and their bodies and her experiences with drugs, alcohol, family and the professional working world. Hers is a book and a story and a life that’s relatable for any woman. They’re experiences that, good or bad, that little girls and young women will continue to have for years to come, no matter what generation they fall into.

That may be what makes her book so powerful. This is not some celebrity memoir, dripping with scandal and salacious details of behind-the-scenes hookups and drug problems. Nor is it an opportunity to use her name to announce a political or social do-gooder platform. It’s also not a self-help book, pronouncing herself the knower of all things. It’s simply her story, her life as a person, a woman and nothing else.

Analysis: It’s her honesty that makes the book work, but also her writing. Her simultaneously self-deprecating and ostentatiously prideful humor seeps into every chapter in a way that made me laugh and sometimes shout “Yes! Exactly!” But in darker moments and depictions of assault and disordered eating, my heart hurt. She writes in a matter-of-fact way, not meant to incur sympathy. I respect that.

The book was divided by large sections: Love & Sex, Body, Friendship, Work and Big Picture. Each essay is placed in whatever chapter it fits best thematically. There’s no timeline. Everything’s out of order. Some stories are from college, some as young as when she was two years old. I found myself wondering if she wrote the book all at once or if she pulled from journal entries and essays she wrote in real-time throughout her life. They were just so detailed, it was impressive to me that she would still recall certain nuggets of information and deep emotions from 10, 15, even 20 years earlier.

Some essays were so brief, I was left to wonder what their significance was. But all together, it was a well-structured mess of stories paralleling the well-structured mess she tends to portray on TV, in movies, on red carpets and Instagram: the honest, well-structured mess so many of us are and try to hide, but Lena Dunham does not.

Get Not That Kind of Girl in paperback now for $9.89.

Or on your Kindle for $6.99.

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‘Pretty Little Liars’ Star To Release Book of Essays

ian-harding-01-2015Is life imitating art or is art imitating life here? According to Entertainment Weekly actor Ian Harding, who plays teacher and writer Ezra Fitz on Pretty Little Liars, is releasing his own book of essays entitled Odd Birds this coming May.

His character on the teen phenomenon of a show is a writer and author, so it’s interesting to learn he writes in real life. While I’m deeply curious as to whether he got into writing since playing a writer on the show or if the show creators wrote that into the series, knowing that Harding himself liked to write, I’m also a little confused about the description of his book, as Isabella Biedenharn explains.

Harding will publish his essay collection, Odd Birds, in May 2017, EW can announce exclusively. Odd Birds will chronicle Harding’s life in Hollywood — including anecdotes from PLL — through the lens of bird watching, making it a fascinating and funny journey for readers of both celebrity memoirs and nature books.

How someone tells anecdotes about a teen television series through the lens of bird watching is pretty baffling to me. But I am interested to know if he’s as a good a writer as they make his character out to be on PLL!

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New Memoir from ‘Matilda,’ ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’ Alum

mara-1You may not remember the name Mara Wilson, but you’ll remember her when you see the cover of her new book. The now grownup, out-of-the-limelight child actress is due to release a book of essays in September about growing up as the girl who starred in both Matilda and Mrs. Doubtfire, among other movies, according to Entertainment Weekly.

Mara Wilson has left the industry, but apparently has become quite the witty writer over the years. Where Am I Now? will include anecdotes about Wilson’s first kiss, learning about sex, her mother’s death and accepting herself.

She’s one of those people whom I forgot existed, but I was such a huge fan of her movies growing up, I can’t imagine not reading her memoir. I’ve got to think she has a lot of interesting stories to tell.

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Anna Kendrick to Pen Book of Essays

Because Lena Dunham wasn’t enough, another twenty-something actress is setting out on becoming an essayist.

According to Page Six, this time it’s Anna Kendrick. The actress/singer is now adding author to her resume, with plans to write a book of autobiographical essays, due out in Fall 2016. Touchstone, an imprint of Simon & Schuster is publishing the book, which is said to include funny and embarrassing stories about the star.

The book does not yet have a title.

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Review: I Remember Nothing

Recap: Contrary to what the title of this book may seem to imply, I Remember Nothing is not a story about Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. On a much lighter note, I Remember Nothing is a nonfiction memoir, penned by the late, great journalist /writer /producer /director /screenwriter Nora Ephron. The book is a collection of essays about the past, present, and future, some personal, some more an outlet for Ephron to vent. Most are funny, some smart, empowering and thought-provoking, others sad, and a few are quite frankly odd.

In the chapter entitled “Journalism: A Love Story,” Ephron explains how she got her start writing as a journalist, from working in the mailroom at Newsweek to writing for the New York Post. The themes about sexism in the workplace and hard work paying off prevail here and feel inspirational. Other sections of the book discuss her divorce, friendship, and death. This is where we learn more about Ephron as a person and how she sees the world. Commentaries round out the rest of the book, including funny bits about email and short, odd, disposable chapters about things like Teflon.

Analysis: In all, reading about the life of one of the smartest, most successful, and iconically remembered creative female minds of our time was enjoyable. She is brilliant, and more importantly resilient. That comes across in her chapters on divorce and industry “flops” that she suffered. But if you read between the lines, Ephron not-so-subtly implies the state that she was in while writing the book. That is to say, Ephron had been diagnosed with leukemia a few years before penning I Remember Nothing. That information was not made public until after Ephron died in 2012. In retrospect, that knowledge better explains chapters like “What I Will Miss” and “What I Won’t Miss.” It’s lists like these that make it clear Ephron knew what road lay ahead. And what’s more, she faced it head-on.

In some sections — like the one about Teflon — I scratched my head in a state of “what the eff?” But other parts made me laugh out loud. And still others made me view the world in a different way. As a journalist, I felt that the journalism section of I Remember Nothing allowed me to connect with Ephron on a deeper level. I feel as thought I understand her quirks, and I respect her for them. But now, two after she’s passed away, I Remember Nothing helped me understand this great woman who I wish I had learned more about when she was still alive. We may not have Nora Ephron anymore, but we do have her words.

Get I Remember Nothing: And Other Reflections in paperback for $11.71.

Or on your Kindle for just $5.

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Another Book from Mindy Kaling

kalingFor those of you who haven’t yet read Mindy Kaling’s memoir, you might want to pick up a copy. Why? Because she has another one on the way.

According to the L.A. Times, Mindy Kaling, star of The Office and The Mindy Project, is working on a second memoir. Entitled Why Not Me?, the book will be a collection of essays, with a variety of topics, as Carolyn Kellogg explains.

“So much has happened between the time I published my first book and now,” Kaling tells [The Times’ Yvonne] Villarreal. “The show; my mother passed away; so many of my friends have gotten married. I’m a godmother now, and a homeowner. There’s so much that has happened in that period of time that I wanted to write another book.”

Considering her first book was a bestseller, I have no doubt this one will be successful as well.

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Literary Prose on Chipotle Cups

I don’t know about you, but I typically think of Starbucks when I think of fast-food joints that sell or use products with noteworthy prose written on them. Not Chipotle. But thanks to author Jonathan Safran Foer (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close), that all has changed.

According to Entertainment Weekly, the author got involved with the fast-food Mexican restaurant when he complained of being bored, explaining in an email to Chipotle’s CEO that there was nothing to read when he ate there. Apparently a famous author complaining via email to the CEO of a company is rather impactful. The CEO and Foer worked together and enlisted authors, writers, and comedians including Toni Morrison, Malcolm Gladwell, George Saunders, Judd Apatow, Sarah Silverman, and Bill Hader to contribute stories, essays, and other pieces — all of which have been printed on cups in Chipotle.

Foer told Vanity Fair that “what interested me is 800,000 Americans of extremely diverse backgrounds having access to good writing. A lot of those people don’t have access to libraries, or bookstores. Something felt very democratic and good about this.”

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Kindle Singles Publishing Soars

As newspapers and magazines continue to lose readership and fold, the way authors and journalists publish short stories, essays, and novellas has changed. Now, it’s going digital.

Amazon is one of the companies hopping on board. But instead of offering its own regular publishing platform like the one used for full-length novels, Amazon is publishing Kindle Singles. I told you about them a year-and-a-half ago, shortly after the service got underway. In the time since, the service has become quite successful.

According to The New York Times, Amazon Kindle Singles is a store under the Amazon umbrella, which sells the shorts for less than $2 each. Though Amazon keeps about 30% of the profit and rarely pays the author upfront, Amazon estimates the authors make an average of $22,000 through the service. It’s  one of the few publishing options that allows authors to make a profit off the shorts, as opposed to getting a flat fee. It’s also starting to gain a larger audience.

Most of the novellas, essays, and stories that are publishing run between 30,000 and 50,000 words, and while the publisher receives about 1000 manuscripts each month, the service is still extremely competitive. Since its January 2011 inception, Amazon has only posted 345 Singles.

It certainly does sound like a good concept for authors and journalists who want to get their short-form pieces published, but 345 published pieces in two years seems small, no?

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Review: This Mobius Strip of Ifs

Recap: In our younger years, we are lost, with the hope that as we grow older, we’ll better understand ourselves, others, and the world as a whole. That’s what Mathias B. Freese attempts to do in his collection of personal essays This Mobius Strip of Ifs. But over and over again, he explains that “knowledge is death” and the idea of full enlightenment or “de-conditioning” as he calls it is impossible to achieve.

Though it’s not one coherent tale, Mobius does share a story about its author and the difficult cards he’s been dealt in his life. The essays were written over decades, and share anecdotes about his family, childhood, years as a teacher, and his time spent working as a psychotherapist. The first section of the book is more philosophical, whereas the second section deals with specific people — famous people — and the things they have contributed to society, and the third section is far more personal.

Throughout this collection, Freese explains what his training, studies, upbringing, interests, and “random happenstances” have taught him. He preaches what he has learned in an upfront and often shocking way.

Analysis: Often times, Freese shares a negative or cynical point of view. One could argue this is just because of the terrible things he’s had to deal with — the loss of his mother at a young age, his daughter’s suicide, his wife’s sudden death. But I don’t believe that’s the case here. It becomes clear that his point of view has been molded not only by what’s happened to him but also by what he’s studied and read over the years.

Freese is blunt and fiercely logical about the world and the way it works, often distressingly so. As an eternal optimist who believes in things like “everything happens for a reason” and “God only gives you that which you can handle,” I often found myself disagreeing with the points made in Freese’s essays. That being said, his points were almost always made with the utmost logic and realism. Whether I agree or not, I could not ignore his valid, well-explained thoughts.

This book is not a memoir. Or rather, I don’t think it’s meant to be one. After all, this is a book full of essays about what his life has taught him about life in general. But ultimately, it feels like a memoir. Upon finishing the book, I felt like I got to know Mathias B. Freese. I understand his world, his inner thoughts, and his life. I may not agree with many of his beliefs, but I’d sure love to grab a coffee with him.

Get This Möbius Strip of Ifs in paperback for $10.95.

Or get it on your Kindle for $9.99.

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Judy Greer Essay Collection On the Way

In movies, she’s almost always played the “best friend” (27 Dresses, The Wedding Planner). But finally, comedic actress Judy Greer is a leading lady — in nonfiction writing.

According to Entertainment Weekly, Judy Greer, who currently voices Cheryl on FX’s Archer, recently got a deal to publish her first book. It will be a collection of essays about a number of topics, ranging from her childhood in the Midwest to her career in film and TV.

Called I Don’t Know What You Know Me From, the book is tentatively set to come out sometime next year and left Greer with an advance of almost $1 million.

It’s nice to see her finally in the limelight; though I do wonder how many people will actually read a book about a woman that doesn’t have the largest following.

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