Tag Archives: Humor

‘Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns)’ by Mindy Kaling

What do you read when there is no time to read? My husband and I are wrapping up a move from our apartment into a house, and there has been very little time to read, let alone a place to do it. These are the times I reserve for celebrity memoirs: fast-paced, readable and easy to pick back up after the cable guy/movers/new neighbors are out of the way. This time I opted for The Office writer/actress Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns), a funny treatise on romance, dieting, the creative process, and pretty much everything in between.

In order to pay homage to Kaling’s penchant for “pliests” (“a piece with a list-y quality”), I will conduct this review in the same fashion.

Why I enjoyed Mindy Kaling’s book:

KALING IS HONEST
It’s easy to tell when a writer, especially a memoirist, is being honest his/her thoughts and experiences. Though Kaling takes pains to stress that Kelly Kapoor, the boy-crazy narcissistic customer service rep she plays on The Office, is not a close iteration of her actual self, it takes an understanding of one’s own faults to play a character like Kelly so convincingly. Kaling’s understanding of her own hypersensitivity to actual and perceived social slights—as evidenced in chapters like “I Forget Nothing: A Sensitive Kid Looks Back”—allows her to play Kelly Kapoor with hilarious accuracy.

IT IS LAUGH-OUT-LOUD FUNNY
After reading Tina Fey’s Bossypants last year, I had doubts about whether Kaling’s book would be as funny. I mean, come on, this is Tina Fey, creator of 30 Rock and former co-host of Weekend Update we’re talking about here. Alas, I was wrong. I attempted to read passages of Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me out loud to my husband a few times, and more often than not, I couldn’t even get through them without dissolving into laughter. The “JLMP” section in particular will ring hilariously true to any female reader who once frustrated Cheesecake Factory servers by ordering one slice of cheesecake and a few diet Cokes with her girlfriends in junior high.

THE GOSSIP
Let’s face it, the reason we read celebrity memoirs is to get the gossip. And thankfully, Mindy Kaling delivers by offering readers a peak into the behind-the-scenes world of The Office. Readers get a feel for the set (not very glamorous), what the actors are really like (as cool as they seem), and a few amusing references to Mindy Kaling’s love/hate relationship with Rainn Wilson, better known as Assistant (to the) Regional Manager Dwight Schrute. There isn’t anything too juicy here, but Kaling treats readers to what feels like a true behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like to work with such a unique group.

All in all, I really enjoyed reading Mindy Kaling’s memoir and recommend it to anyone needing a break from more serious reading.

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‘The Financial Lives of the Poets’ by Jess Walter

Jess Walter’s latest novel, The Financial Lives of the Poets, is one fun and timely read. Beginning in medias res, narrator Matt Prior is two years into a glorious downfall, having lost his job and on his way now to losing his home to foreclosure and wife to a former flame. Chronicling the outrageous (but not necessarily farfetched) events that take place the week before the Priors owe a large balloon payment to their mortgage company, The Financial Lives of the Poets reads as a classically American story of redemption, set in the modern Great Recession.

Matt Prior is the prototypical “victim” of the current economic environment. That is, a victim of his own poor choices as well as the unscrupulously regulated financial system that together resulted in the Great Recession. The narrator admits, “We’ve lived beyond our means, spent the future, sapped resources, lived on the bubble.” It is this combination that leads Matt to carry out an ill-advised plan of selling some weed he procures after encountering a group of stoners late at night at a 7-Eleven. Over the course of the next week, Matt attempts to save his home from foreclosure by way of his new high-risk career while at the same time sleuthing to determine how far his wife’s recent Facebook flirtation with an old boyfriend has progressed. These storylines, in addition to other entertaining asides (Franklin and the clacker fight!), make for an engaging read that I found hard to put down.

While one of the greatest draws of The Financial Lives of the Poets is its hilarious prose, the novel also succeeds in telling the more serious story of a family’s redemption. Beneath the surface of the protagonist’s funny, self-deprecating attitude is a man genuinely in crisis. Each of the sureties he has come to depend on in his upper-middle-class existence—his home, his wife, his job—is in jeopardy, if not lost already. Because the reader can identify closely with his great need to retain these affinities, one cannot help but root for Matt as he attempts to gain back his life, regardless of his method. In the end, though Walter does not let his protagonist off the hook completely, he does, fortunately, offer Matt and his family a quintessentially American second chance at getting it right.

Despite its hokey title and deceptively light premise, Jess Walter’s The Financial Lives of the Poets offers an insightful look into contemporary American life. Funny and intelligent, this book comes highly recommended.

‘Bossypants’ by Tina Fey

As a big fan of 30 Rock and the Fey/Poehler years of SNL’s Weekend Update, I knew I had to read Tina Fey’s new memoir/collection of essays, Bossypants. In it, Fey covers the gamut of everything from her childhood as a theater kid in Pennsylvania, to her years spent as one of few women touring with The Second City, ending finally with her current gig as creator/writer/star of NBC’s hilarious 30 Rock. Quintessentially Tina Fey, this memoir is a treat for fans of the comedian and her work.

Bossypants is by no means a traditional memoir. And for me, that is what made it such fun to read. I enjoyed learning about the author’s formative years and her rise from Second City bit player to prime time comedy bigwig, but it was content like the “Secrets of Mommy’s Beauty”, “Dear Internet” and “The Mother’s Prayer for its Daughter” that had me laughing out loud.

While Bossypants is undoubtedly a funny book, Fey doesn’t shy away from commenting on the male-dominated politics of the profession she excels in. She understands that, unfair as it is, her success is the exception to the rule, and aspires to create an environment around her own show that undermines that unfortunate truth. While she admittedly doesn’t have all the answers, she articulates well a frustration that any woman trying to succeed in the politics of the “boys’ club” can relate with.

I am happy to report that Tina Fey’s Bossypants was the treat I thought it would be. Highly recommended to 30 Rock fans in need of a fix before Thursday!