Little, Brown and Company
Jenny Slate’s had a busy year of recalibration – a Netflix special of so-so comedy mixed with her charming kookiness and some deep-cut home videos to soften the blow of mistimed punchlines. And now this book of “essays” – and the accompanying promotional book-tour. A few bit-part roles in some films too – and over the last few years she’s shown brilliance on the big screen in serious roles while on the small-screen it’s more often about setting can’t-be-phasers to kook-cray. And all of this is fine by me. I am enjoying her ‘see what sticks’ / ‘who gives a shit’ roll of the dice.
But I wanted more from this book.
And it’s hard to say that because it’s set up to avoid criticism – its opening piece (and a couple of the ones that follow) Scotchgard it from reviews or at least from reviewers.
“There is a free, wild creature up here, and now you must think about how to take her in and keep her alive.”
Hey, look, it’s fine to say that. But the early promise of some quirky prose-poem length essays and thoughts and diary entries soon falls away into something akin to “so what’s the expected word-length, huh?” And/or “When’s the deadline again?”
From Woody Allen to Steve Allen to Lena Dunham and to several points in-between comedic actors/writers have been creating little tomes of words – often on the back of successful New Yorker-styled publishing side-gigs (Jessie Eisenberg) or more simply/crudely because a publisher knows there’s gold in dem dere hills if a famous actor-type puts pen to paper in whatever manner.
There’s a lot of whatever manner going on across Little Weirds, but its almost never weird enough.
Ghost stories, anxiety, family history, travel, awkward famous-person stories, all good starters for ten. But nothing ever quite gets hit out of the park at all.
And I enjoyed the throwaway nature of some of this. And there are tender moments too. A great level of vulnerability on display, an even greater awareness of that. But the slightness is eventually underwhelming. It goes from cute and funny and slightly oddball to just half-baked.
And yet I wanted to read this and wanted to like it. But that’s more about Jenny Slate’s overall persona and the work that bubbles away in the background (she was so unlucky and under-appreciated on SNL). A better thing to spend your time with is her interview with Marc Maron from his WTF podcast from about five years ago. That was a crushingly beautiful thing. And if she’d allowed herself to follow that up with a straighter memoir she’d have hit publishing paydirt I believe.
This, however, is for diehards to fawn over.
I tried that. And discovered I’m no diehard at all.
I guess it was worth it for that.
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