Lit­tle Weirds

  • Review
By – March 16, 2020

Come­di­an and actress Jen­ny Slate said so her­self, she looked inside her brain and found a book” — which seems accu­rate when read­ing her debut mem­oir, Lit­tle Weirds. The title isn’t far off from what’s inside: imag­i­na­tive, fun­ny, and melan­cholic per­son­al essays.

It’s dif­fi­cult to pin­point what cat­e­go­ry this book falls into, rang­ing from real accounts of her life — such as her divorce — to dream-like abstrac­tions of how she sees the world: The plan­et itself saw us. I saw it see us, I think. I think it saw us while we were doing exact­ly what we want­ed, and then it was hap­py.” She gives us glimpses into her child­hood, grow­ing up in a haunt­ed house, and recounts her hap­pi­est and dark­est dreams. On what­ev­er top­ic she decides to illus­trate who she is, it is remark­ably invit­ing and raw.

In the com­e­dy world, Slate’s rep­u­ta­tion is that of a quirky Jew­ish woman who puts on sil­ly voic­es and plays com­i­cal roles. But her author­ship show­cas­es a much deep­er side, express­ing feel­ings of immense lone­li­ness and devot­ing mul­ti­ple pieces to death. In fact, Slate dies” mul­ti­ple times in the book, where she details her final moments on Earth: I was a pro at dying. I bore it with dig­ni­ty and grace and light jokes. The jokes were clear and weight­less. They did not drag any­one into my pain. Nobody got a whiff of anything.”

Some of her pieces, like The Code of Ham­mura­bi,” have fem­i­nist under­pin­nings, ana­lyz­ing patri­archy, misog­y­ny, and the ways our coun­try has made some wrong turns. How­ev­er, Slate doesn’t try to preach. Rather, she ques­tions, express­es hope, and even admits the uncon­scious part she plays in the soci­ety she dis­dains: Would Ted­dy Roo­sevelt be a fem­i­nist? Would he like me or think I am a wimp? Were the Kennedys just real­ly gross, like, with women? Why are so many men so gross but still we say that they are heroes?” But, even in the more seri­ous pieces, she man­ages to write in a refresh­ing­ly play­ful and per­son­able tone.

Slate poignant­ly com­mu­ni­cates her breadth of opin­ions on things as small as gera­ni­ums, to larg­er-than-life con­cepts like the after­life, and she deliv­ers them with a unique voice and per­spec­tive. Refresh­ing and unpre­dictable, Lit­tle Weirds invites you into Slate’s imag­i­na­tive mind.

Michelle Zau­rov is Jew­ish Book Coun­cil’s pro­gram asso­ciate. She grad­u­at­ed from Bing­ham­ton Uni­ver­si­ty in New York, where she stud­ied Eng­lish and lit­er­a­ture. She has worked as a jour­nal­ist writ­ing for the Home Reporter, a local Brook­lyn pub­li­ca­tion. She enjoys read­ing real­is­tic fic­tion and fan­ta­sy nov­els, espe­cial­ly with a strong female lead.

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