on November 1, 2011
Mindy Kaling, writer/actress on The Office, is funny. Very funny. She can turn an average story about summer camp, to one where the main character (herself) falls off a diving board, bleeds upon hitting the water, and is told, by an older camp counselor, to never tell her parents about the situation. She turned an ongoing gag with her friend into an award-winning play/TV show pilot. So, it's natural progression for her to try her hand at writing a book.
People will almost definitely compare Kaling's new book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) to Tina Fey's best-seller, Bossypants. It's not because the two authors look the same (they don't), or are on the same TV show (they're not), it's mostly because the two are well-known female television writers and actors. And Kaling knows the comparison will come, as she points out in the beginning of her book, noting that Fey's book will be seen as better.
"Unfortunately, I can't be Tina, because it's very difficult to lure her into a Freaky Friday-type situation where we could switch bodies, even though in the movies they make it look so easy. Believe me, I've tried."
The thing is, she shouldn't see it that way. While I haven't read Bossypants, I can say that Kaling's book is really very good. Smart and funny, she writes with an honest voice. The book reads more like a letter to a friend than a memoir, and I liked that about it. Because the book isn't really a memoir - sure, it's true stories about her life - but it's broken up into short essays, much like that of Sedaris (only much more conversational). She only mentions the humorous or thought provoking parts of her life, those that contributed to her career today. The book also has lists (or pliests as she calls them), essays that are mainly lists. (Like my favorite, "Best Friend Rights and Responsibilities.")It worked well. (However, it did leave me hanging at times. Like, why wasn't Brenda in California? When did Mindy become Kelly on The Office? I want details!)
The book is divided into a few different sections, which span her life: "I Forget Nothing: A Sensitive Kid Looks Back" (on her childhood), "I Love New York and It Likes Me Okay" (her move to NY and attempts to break into writing), "Hollywood: My Good Friend Who Is Also A Little Embarrassing" (her time on The Office), "The Best Distraction In The World: Romance and Guys" (obvious), "My Appearance: The Fun and the Really Not Fun" (her style and look), and "My All-Important Legacy" (her planned funeral, of course). Her writing is fast and always attention grabbing. The stories are never too long, and give you just enough detail to feel satisfied. (And, yes, I loved when she dropped in the names of celebrities. Amy Poehler is nice! I knew it!) But what I liked most was that even with every funny instance, there's a lot of heart in the book. She loves her job and it shows. She didn't break into the industry easy, and reading about her progression was inspiring.
Her story about how her play, Matt & Ben (a not-so-true story of the Matt Damen/Ben Affleck friendship) came to be was fantastic. I loved her attempts at babysitting (where she got to discuss the merits of N'Sync), and and stories of writing for SNL. And it broke my heard to hear her discuss how, during a photo shoot for People magazine, only size 0 dresses were available. She has a gift to write about painful moments, but make them feel hopeful and light.
I felt like, towards the end, she was trying to find something else to write about (thus the essays on romance). It's not to say they were bad - they were just as good - but I would have liked more personal stories.
I like Kaling because she doesn't make excuses for herself. She loves the color pink and shopping. She posts pictures of her getting zits before big interviews. Truly, she's just being herself and it's refreshing. I admit, I've only seen a handful of episodes of The Office, but the book convinced me to tune in. (I admittedly really wanted to read this because I love her blog. Have you read it? Go to it now.)
Kaling's book is remarkably enjoyable, and spotlights the writer in a new way.In the introduction, she says she'd like to be friends with Beyonce. Well, I'd like to be friends with her.