Perhaps second only to Virginia Woolf, Jenny Slate thoroughly explores, and explain, the importance of a sense of place—both outside and within—as a totem of the female experience. Through her book “Little Weirds,” Slate writes weird essays that in some areas feels like a stream of consciousness and in other places, reads like childish short fiction. This new format of not-quite fiction, not-quite memoir serves her well though. At times it is hard to follow her train of thought, but towards the second half of the book, everything just starts to make so much sense: Jenny Slate is a woman who feels things, lives life fully, and sometimes it fits into nice packages and other times it takes the format of nonsensical fiction essays about making out with rabbits.
“Little Weirds” lets us know that it’s ok to think weird thoughts and live alone in a house decked out with plants and an old dog as long as we are living our truth.
From a literary perspective, the book is equal parts challenging and endearing. Slate begins the book announcing her vulnerability and fear and asking for patience from the reader, delicately explaining that she is only a human with stage-fright. As we know, she overcomes her stage fright often, but just because she is successful at overcoming a fear doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist, or will evaporate over time. She makes it clear to the reader that this is a new thing she is doing and it doesn’t fit into a box of standardized genres (fiction, autobiography, nonfiction essays, poetry).
“Little Weirds” is not Slate’s first book but it is the first adult novel she’s written. It’s no “Everything I learned about love,” but the beauty in Jenny Slate as a comedian and as a writer is that she is aware of her personal gaps and isn’t apologizing for them. She is who she is, and she makes that very clear. Slate also isn’t trying to be the next JK Rowling, she is merely expressing herself in a way that makes sense to her and hoping that people can get value from it.
I didn’t understand the book when I first started reading it, wondering if it was fiction or nonfiction and why Slate talked so much about farts and dying. Now, I realize that these are the words that she feels comfortable using to describe her human experience. I value that; it’s downright commendable.
If you’re like me and tend to go for classic literature, you might find yourself frustrated with the little weirdness of Slate’s book but the best thing you can do is, like Slate, stay the course and allow yourself to be surprised by what resonates.
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Founder of Left Bank Media. I write about music, and New York mostly. MA Creative Writing at Birkbeck, University of London.