We are living through a golden age of the female-comedian memoir. Stoked by Chelsea Handler’s consistently bestselling memoirs about drinking and sex, the genre became a full-on trend with Tina Fey’s Bossypants in 2011. In short order, we had books by Sarah Silverman, Mindy Kaling, Judy Greer, Rachel Dratch, anyone who’s ever been on the Chelsea Lately comedy panel, and an upcoming collection by the forever-likable Amy Poehler. Some have succeeded and some have flopped, but it’s a wave that apparently hasn’t even crested yet, with a new million-dollar book deal announced seemingly every day.
The latest example to achieve a level of hype that rivals Fey’s, riding the complicated line between “celebrity essay collection” and New Yorker-approved “feted literary memoir,” is Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned”, the debut book by Girls creator, writer, director, and lead actress Lena Dunham. Notable for garnering a $3.7 million advance and much attendant outrage (although did we hear any kickback when Aziz Ansari got $3.5 million to write about “modern love”?), it’s a beautiful book-as-object, handsomely designed, with charming illustrations by Joana Avillez, filled with essays about the 28-year-old artist’s life so far, with subjects ranging from childhood to boys to work.
Dunham is nothing if not a lightning rod for criticism and praise, with every tweet and Girls storyline wrung for clues as to what it means to be a millennial today. But beyond the hype that signals that everything its author does is Important, is Not That Kind of Girl any good? Is Dunham the next Nora Ephron? And is she the voice of our generation — or a voice of a generation, an appellation that a drug-addled Hannah Horvath uttered in Girls‘ pilot episode and that will now follow Dunham forever? Four Flavorwire staffers — all women, or “girls” if you must — have four different takes below.