What kind of girl is Lena Dunham? Writer? Actor? Director? Socialite? Feminist? Sex analyst for the downtrodden? or all of the above?
In her latest book “Not that kind of girl” Lena delves into all these avenues through a series of essays which explain (in sometimes a little too much detail) why she is the way she is. The book itself is quite an easy read, the content however can be deemed cringe worthy; just as Dunham herself can be when playing Hannah on GIRLS (but that’s why we love her isn’t it?).
Split into five sections Love & Sex, Body, Friendship, Work & Big Picture; Lena takes the reader on a journey through the life of a very complicated (and highly intelligent) young woman where no topic is taboo –“Mike was the first person to go down on me, after a party to benefit Palestine, on my dorm rug. I felt like I was being chewed on by a child that wasn’t mine” (p.55, Barry); and is at her strongest when she talks about those closest to her heart, especially her sister Grace whom she is clearly fascinated by and maybe even a little envious of-“she dresses like a Hawaiian criminal, loose patterned shirts and oddly fitting suits… She has a taste for unusual women with strong noses and doll eyes and creative positions. She is thin but physically lazy. Guys Love her. (P.156 Grace).
In the “Work “section, there is a clear distinction of when the light bulb flicks on and she got serious about what it is in life she was set out to do-“but ambition is a funny thing: it creeps in when you least expect it”(p.185 little leather gloves) and then in complete contradiction depicts her worst job as the one she misses most-“once my boss yelled at me for giving Gwyneth Paltrow the wrong size in baby leggings” I say wincing at the memory. What I don’t say is that it felt like home, that it started our journey that we ate the best lunches I’ve ever had. What I don’t say is that I miss it. (P.190 little leather gloves).
The last section titled “Big Picture” Lena recounts her formative years through her countless therapy sessions and her ever-growing compulsive habits-“I am eight and I am afraid of everything” “My germophobia morphs into hypochondria morphs into sexual anxiety…” (p.205-209 Therapy & Me). The most fascinating part of this section however, was the final essay which is written in the third person (the previous essays are predominantly in the first person) and is simply titled “A guide to running away”. The essay pretty much analyses Lena’s reasons for wanting to run away as a nine year old girl (mainly due to being misunderstood and/or wanting attention) and then finishes with the reasons for wanting to run away as a twenty-seven year old woman. The latter is heart-warming and earnest-“you’ve learned a new rule and it’s simple: don’t put yourself in situations you’d like to run away from”(p.262 guide to running away). Her depth and honesty is integral to the inner workings of her mind and really bookends the chapters in her life perfectly.
There are some parts though that fall short; like the monotonous “journal chronicling my attempts to lose weight” (p.88-98 diet is a four letter word) which is a literal food diary of everything she consumed over the course of a day (I get bored recounting my own daily intake let alone that of a stranger) and the highly exciting (insert sarcasm here) “what’s in my bag” which is unfortunately not a metaphor. Criticism aside “Not that kind of girl” is quite genuine in its entirety, even when Dunham is clearly being pretentious it is backed up with quick wit and a certain naivety that can only be described as charming. In ten words or less; an enjoyable read about an intriguing human.