Jenny Slate Gets a Little Weird in New Book

Posted by Cybil on November 1, 2019
Jenny Slate
You may know actress Jenny Slate from her role as Mona-Lisa Saperstein on Parks and Recreation.

Or maybe your introduction to her was through one of the many independent movies she's starred in, including Obvious Child and Landline.

Or perhaps you're a fan of her comedy, including her stand-up routines and her stint on Saturday Night Live.

In short, there are a lot of ways you may have become a fan of the talented and often quirky star.

Well, fans have a couple of more reasons to be happy this fall. Not only is she debuting a new comedy special on Netflix, she's written a poetic memoir called Little Weirds. It's a hybrid of a book that defies being pigeonholed, so we went straight to the author to ask her to describe her work.

With Little Weirds arriving in bookstores, Slate talked to Goodreads about her love of writing and shared many of her favorite books with us.

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Goodreads: You’ve found success as a comedian and actor in films. How was writing this book different from acting? And in what ways did you feel that it was similar?

Jenny Slate: I think the first difference is that writing requires a dive into my mind and the retrieval and revealing of an essential self. What I bring out is (hopefully) in the exact form in which I found it within. In writing, I don’t have to be anyone but myself, and my task is to show myself. When I act, I use all that I have, creatively, to show someone else, to make a character come alive. I use aspects of myself, aspects of my experience, to fashion not a new self but a mantle that I lay over who I am. In writing, there is nobody there but me. In acting, it’s like there are two, or even many, of us there!

But the similarity is that I am always the creator in the center, and so my work will always have that mark on it. I am always there, hidden or bare.

GR: Were you influenced by any other authors while writing Little Weirds? Or were there any books you had in the back of your mind while you were planning your book?

JS: Yes! I was inspired by Maira Kalman, Clarice Lispector, Lydia Davis, and the children’s author Barbara Cooney. Those authors have been in my mind, some for decades, some just recently. I’m not sure that there was really ANY planning, but they are in my mind every day.

GR: Did you learn anything new about your creative process while writing Little Weirds?

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JS: The main thing I noticed was that I can be very, very, very precious with my words. I was reluctant to cut anything, and I needed to learn how to do that. Now I know that I grip too tightly. I learned how to let go. But that said, I think with every new piece, I will most likely repeat that same process.

I also learned that I take sweetness very seriously; I’d turned away from it a bit because I thought of it as “lighter fare,” but now I know that it is the most serious thing for me.

GR: You’ve also written children’s books as well as coauthored a book with your father, the poet and essayist Ron Slate. How was this experience different for you?

JS: This book was written because I was involuntarily alone. It was written about feeling alone, and then actually being physically all alone, and feeling for the worth in that aloneness. It is only me, all by myself, and that is why the book exists!

GR: Your nonfiction debut defies easy classification. How would you describe your book to potential readers? And who do you think the perfect audience would be for Little Weirds?

JS: I like to say that the book is made up of small pieces of lightness and sweetness, small pieces about how and what I feel, and that it’s somewhere between a menu and the Bible, somewhere between memories and wishes, between creed and prayer. The audience is everybody, including plants and animals.

GR: What are some of your all-time-favorite books?

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JS: The Hour of the Star by Clarice Lispector, Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, The Gastronomical Me by M.F.K. Fisher, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, Eleanor by Barbara Cooney, The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. Anything by Lydia Davis.

GR: What books are you currently reading and recommending to friends and family?

JS: Every now and then I reread my copy of Sleepless Nights by Elizabeth Hardwick, and that is what I’m doing now. Sometimes I think it is the smartest book in the world ever. Also, I recommend, just like everyone else, that people read Ferrante, particularly the Neapolitan Novels.

GR: What’s next for you, and would you consider writing another book?

JS: I have a stand-up comedy special coming out on Netflix on October 22, then this book on November 5. Many cartoon TV shows. But what’s next in performance? I have no idea. Would I write another book? Of course. It’s sort of all I want to do, forever.

Jenny Slate's book Little Weirds will be available in the U.S. on November 5. Don't forget to add it to your Want to Read shelf. Be sure to also read more of our exclusive author interviews and get more great book recommendations.

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message 1: by Clint (new)

Clint Seeber I have no idea who Jennifer Slate is.

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