I am not the intended audience for this book. I felt like I was the guy at the bar who Samantha Irby was craning her neck around to talk to the woman on the stool on my other side. I am a late middle-aged guy, and almost none of my male Goodreads friends seem to have read this, but like hundreds of women, who are like her bff. I had decided to read the top three Goodreads Humor nominees of 2020, had never heard of Irby, and as opposed to my binge-listening to mysteries or intensely studying Serious Novels, wanted a series of funny breaks at the End of 2020. She's from Chicago, I'm from Chicago and was hoping for Chicago flavor (and did get that), she graduated from Evanston Township High School and grew up there, I know Evanston.
As Irby said in a later essay about her first book, she was surprised at how many people were interested in what was basically "a lot of swearing and poop jokes," which is a joke, but kinda true about her work. As she admits elsewhere, she is an acquired taste, she is who she is, deal with it, she's now a middle-aged, mildly-depressed, queer woman of color with diarrhea" (or Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or Crohn's Disease, depending on when she is talking about it). In the first essays she comes on strong with the poop stories, and I thought, okay, I am going to part company with Samantha and move to another seat at the bar. Took a break and came back to it, listening to one at a time, getting to know her a bit.
So something happened in the chapter, "Hysterical," on Irby's (dramatically heavy) periods, which I was, again, going to skim through, not written for me, but hey, I am this sad completist, I have to finish everything. I shared some of the anecdotes with two people in this house who actually also get and were actually having their periods--such as, how she once left a hotel room looking like a murder scene from CSI--and they laughed uproariously at every anecdote I shared. I thought, huh! and went back and listened to the chapter (kinda) through their eyes, sharing some more of it with them, and I found myself relaxing a bit more, smiling more.
So I finally warmed up to this collection, I think Irby's third, and actually laughed aloud to it a few times as I went along. She's a comedian who does a blog, BitchesGottaEat, she's written for tv, she grew up poor, she writes about that humorously (and as a former working class kid, appreciated that). She writes about nineties music in sort of insider girlfriend fashion, okay, not my era, fine; she does a couple joke lists such as "Sure, sex if fun, but..." (and lists other things that may be just as fun or more); she writes (always) self-deprecatingly and honestly about various humiliations ("self esteem? I have no self-esteem. Does it sound like a person has self-esteem who has engaged in a sexual act with a guy and a donut?!").
Irby tells about being a "hired gun" writer in LA who got her own office and whose bosses ordered lunch for her. As she says, "I am a person who has picked up dog shit for minimum wage," so she couldn't believe her good luck to be in sunny LA sometimes at arm's length from famous people and being treated with some respect. She writes about publishing her book, a collection of her stuff, but also being essentially "without goals," preferring to sit around and eat carbohydrates than work really hard for anything. . . so she's making connections with a lot of us, relating to us, and yet, you know, she actually has written three books and has a crazy huge following now, having moved from Chicago to marry a woman-with-kids in Kalamazoo.
Irby comes off as (and I believe she is!) a "regular" person, yeah, but she also is now kinda not, being funnier than most people. And sorta more famous than anyone working fourteen years in an animal shelter who wrote most of her first book in the handicapped bathroom has a right to imagine.
I liked it, and will probably not move to another seat the next time I sit next to her at bar. She's funny!