Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

I think this is the first time I’ve read a book in a timely manner in a very, very long time. I also realize that I just used some form of the word “time” three times in that last sentence, and twice in this one. I need a thesaurus, or to be less lazy.

But I digress. I’ve been all up in the young female comedy writer memoirs of late, perhaps because they’re so readily available right now. Fey, Silverman, and now Mindy Kaling; Poehler better be next. I love reading these books, because I feel at home in them. Of course, I am nowhere near as motivated or talented as any of them–and if you’re really my friend, you’ll immediately negate that declaration in the comments even though it’s true–but it’s incredibly comforting to find little bits of yourself scattered in the early lives of your heroes.

I admit that I’m a little skeptical of someone as young as Mindy Kaling (who is 32) writing a memoir; as with Tina Fey’s book, I found it to be a little forced, but I devoured it nonetheless. I also didn’t find it as laugh-out-loud funny as Fey’s or Silverman’s, which was a little disappointing. But I’ve decided to stop the comparisons there, if I can help it, because I think it’s incredibly unfair to draw them. Kaling herself addresses these comparisons in the book, and I admire her bravery in assembling her own tales without letting their cultural favoritism detract her. In fact, that bravery might be the thing I admire most about her. The takeaway feeling from Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, despite the misleading insecurity that bleeds through the title, is one of complete and utter confidence. That isn’t to say egotism, though I’m sure Kaling would attest to her own arrogance at some point, because everyone in Hollywood needs some of it to get by, but it’s incredible that she just doesn’t doubt herself very often. That’s a hard trait to have and maintain, and one that is especially beneficial in her industry. I can only hope to have my skin thicken half as much, and I just hope it’s not in a physical way. That would be gross.

This woman has written some terrific episodes of The Office, some of which she discusses in the book, so I was inclined to love her writing style from the start. But I have to say that in prose, speaking from only her own point of view, rather than that of the characters she writes for, Kaling could do herself more favors. She is incredibly smart and witty, but she relies heavily on hedging phrases like “or something,” “or whatever,” and “like.” As in she actually writes them down in the sentences in this book. The occasional use of them is fine and often funny, but using them this often is about as irritating as hearing someone actually say them in speech. And it’s almost worse to hear someone who’s really intelligent saturate their words with weeds like these. I just hope she doesn’t feel that she has to use them to maintain some sort of image.

Image, actually, is another thing I admire her for. I love that she’s so unabashedly feminine and shamelessly pop-cultural. I find myself apologizing (to myself, mostly) for liking things that are embarrassing to most other people, such as chick flicks and weird habits. She doesn’t do that. She doesn’t give a shit. She should teach a class in not giving a shit so effortlessly and non-bitchily.

I’m glad I bought this book, even if it was a bit premature. Kaling’s musings don’t necessarily give advice, or even inspire young writers to get out there and scribble down pages of genius (or at least they didn’t for me), but they did give me a better understanding of how writers come to be. They don’t have to be clownish kids from day one, nor do they have to have studied it in school. They just have to want it, and know how and who to impress at the right time. And Kaling is on her way to impressing more and more people before she even has a kid. Unless she’s knocked up right now. That sure would be funny.

As always, here are my favorite quotes.

p. 70 // “I’m the kind of person who would rather get my hopes up really high and watch them get dashed to pieces than wisely keep my expectations at bay and hope they are exceeded. This quality has made me a needy and theatrical friend, but has given me a spectacularly dramatic emotional life.”

p. 183 // “… I live in godless Los Angeles, where if you’re engaged it simply means you’re publicly announcing that you are dating a person monogamishly.”

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