Book Review: Lena Dunham’s “Not That Kind of Girl”

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I have just returned from a holiday in Italy during which time I read Lena Dunham’s book not once but twice.

I think that I could whip through it like this is testament to its utility as a holiday read and not a weighty piece of literature but I liked it nonetheless.

It reads much like a blog, with stand-alone chapters, listicles, and self-referential comments and references.

It would probably not be as well received if Lena had not first made it big in Hollywood as writer and director of the hit HBO series Girls. But then again, it is really all about who you know and not what you know.

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The subtitle of the book is “A young woman tells you what she’s learned” and I think Lena manages to hit the mark on this “promise” about 60% of the time. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy her stories of her misspent youth (although I think she is as privileged and spoiled as they come) but I guess I just feel like anyone could have told those stories and maybe we’re only interested in hers because we’ve seen her bare ass on TV?

Is it funny? Yes at times I laughed out loud.

Is it helpful? Yes I suppose it helps to feel a certain female camaraderie with someone who might be more neurotic than oneself and has made more erroneous decisions and has had more distorted thoughts than oneself. It’s also nice to know that someone as screwed up as her (cushioned as she is by her privilege) can also “make a success”.

What I do like about the book is that it has this nostalgic feeling to it that I sometimes conjure up for myself, about my own life. Often, while in the throws of living, I think about how I am going to think back on this moment. And I love that Lena does that too. She has the kind of mind that is always imagining the scene from another reference point. And in a way, all of us can do this with our own narratives.

My favourite bit is from this excerpt below. I can relate to this “compassionate stance” that she takes with her former self. I really want to promote that today. Isn’t it lovely? Imagine if you could look back at all your past selves/past moves/past mistakes and instead of wanting to grab that person and shake her and yell in her face, you give her a great big hug and tell her to keep on keeping on, that she’ll get “there” eventually, and how lucky she is!

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I don’t know if this says more about me than it does Lena, but I like her stories about men the most. I like how she manages to grasp the awful balancing act required when one’s desire for love and affection is great but one’s tolerance for mistreatment and neglect is even greater. She really does “teach” her readers something here. And it’s not something you haven’t been told before. Hell, I’ve even made mention of this kind of thing previously on this blog.

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We all can relate to the endless battle for higher self-esteem, self-love and self-acceptance. And maybe Lena can help us to figure that out because she is not gorgeous, model-thin, or particularly “together”. She is not A-type and she does not claim to be a particularly high achiever. And in that way she is the perfect poster girl for “loving your imperfect self”. I salute this effort and have definitely been inspired by her writing style.

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