Alright, so maybe I slacked off a little. MAYBE, instead of spending the last week writing book reviews with all the gusto of a person with nothing to do except eat takeout and watch old sitcoms, I instead just ate takeout and watched old sitcoms. I’ll admit it, I fell off the wagon a bit.
Fortunately, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading. In fact, I spent most of Christmas Eve Eve hunkered down in a ForeverLazy with my grandmother’s memoir, interrupted only by my mother popping in to berate me for bothering to read it (the memoir is, for the record, just as poorly written as I suspected, and just as unintentionally hilarious.) I spent the train ride to my mom’s house reading Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, and the train ride back reading The Sibling Effect, a Christmas gift from said mom. I spent most of last week on The Night Eternal, the third and final installment of the Guillermo del Toro/Chuck Hogan collaboration (which actually inaugurated this blog) and most of this week (so far) on Bag of Bones, a Stephen King novel that was recently turned into a (hopefully good because I recorded it) made-for-TV movie on A&E.
So I done been busy. And still found time to finally finish the most recent season of The Walking Dead and the first season of Game of Thrones (also, for some reason, like three Jada Pinkett movies). But since I don’t have the time (and let’s be honest, you don’t have the patience) to recap all of those endeavors in one post, I’ll start out 2012 with Mindy Kaling, who got me through an obnoxious Amtrak ride during which literally every person in my immediate vicinity was on their cell phone.
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (IEHOWM) is Kaling’s contribution to the burgeoning field of comedian memoirs (which may or may not actually be burgeoning). Following in the footsteps of funny bitches like Sarah Silverman, Kathy Griffin and Tina Fey, Kaling basically recounts a somewhat awkward (though typical) childhood, complete with an appropriately ridiculous haircut. This is followed by a somewhat awkward (though typical) journey to New York and then California, including somewhat awkward (but typical) auditions for comedy roles and a somewhat awkward (but typical) eventual landing at NBC. In between the more biographical elements of her memoir (book of essays?), Kaling also shares things like her opinion on the difference between men and boys, franchises she’d like to reboot and instructions for her funeral. Also some moderate dirt on how things work at The Office (apparently it’s impossible to get Steve Carell to talk shit about anyone.)
If I sound somewhat unenthusiastic about IEHOWN, it’s because….well, I am (though I maintain that it was an excellent Christmas present from @SheLikesToShop). This isn’t to say that I didn’t find it amusing, or that I don’t really like Mindy Kaling (I do!) but I guess I felt like she phoned it in a little. Like she got juuuust famous enough to be able to write a bestseller, and then slapped together some coming-of-age anecdotes with a few quirky lady thoughts (I mean really, the difference between men and boys?)
Perhaps I’m being grumpy—it’s a new year so I’m obviously dieting—and perhaps it doesn’t work to Kaling’s advantage that her upbringing and transition to show business are very similar to Tina Fey’s, making it even more difficult for her book to stand out. But Kaling writes, produces and directs episodes of The Office; she put together a full-length play based on the relationship between Ben Affleck and Matt Damon; she worked for like a microsecond as a writer on SNL. I don’t know, I suppose I just expected a little more.
Now, just to be clear: If you like Mindy Kaling, comedians, or The Hairpin, you should still read this. It’s funny and cute and endearing. Also, photos of small Indian children are included for no additional cost. My criticism of Kaling’s book is in stacking it up against others in the genre, but it should go without saying that something capable of distracting me from Amtrak’s 10 loudest cell phone talkers is still worth picking up. I mean, who’s to say that I’m not simply biased by envy, that I only begrudge Kaling her hardcover debut because I have yet to achieve my own. This could be true (it is). But you know, haters gonna hate.
In the grand scheme of lady comedian memoirs, Bossypants is still the reigning champ, and I don’t just say that because Tina Fey’s childhood photos more closely resemble my own. I loved that book because despite being effortlessly hilarious, it still imparted some sort of message—about women, about society, about the judgment that comes with wearing sweatpants in public. IEHOWN is just as effortless; it’s just that this time it kinda shows.
TITLE: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)
AUTHOR: Mindy Kaling
PAGES: 222 (in hardcover)
ALSO WROTE: episodes of The Office, Matt & Ben
SORTA LIKE: Bossypants meets Chelsea Handler
FIRST LINE: “Thank you for buying this book.”