Monday, December 23, 2013

IS EVERYONE HANGING OUT WITHOUT ME?


IS EVERYONE HANGING OUT WITHOUT ME? (AND OTHER CONCERNS) by MINDY KALING

This book lingered on the fringe of my to-read list for a while. From what little I know, Kaling seems like an interesting person, but I only know a little and I suppose I worried her biography would mostly appeal to those obsessed with either her or The Office. I read and heard things about or quotes from her that kept drawing my attention back to her memoir, but what finally sold me was this online article with quotes about her pet peeve interview question. The question: Where do you get your confidence?” And her interpretation of the subtext: “You’re not skinny, you’re not white, you’re a woman. Why on earth would you feel like you’re worth anything?” I, for one, hardly think she’s being oversensitive. Her statements on that topic struck a chord and I bought her book only a few days later.  

Given the marketing, it’s no surprise that the book’s funny. Kaling had me chuckling aloud more than once and often with jokes made even more entertaining because the humor wraps around an insightful truth. Also, she scores major honesty points with this memoir. I can’t imagine laying myself open for strangers as much as she does here - from sharing painful memories to embarrassing confessions. 

Perhaps due to both the humor and the honesty, the wisdom kind of sneaks up on you. I marked one quote early on in the book: “One friend with whom you have a lot in common is better than three with whom you struggle to find things to talk about.” It’s not a new revelation, but it’s a mindset with which I’ve always strongly agreed. And I found many more perceptive tidbits scattered within the jokes and recollections. 

My only struggle with the book is all the celebrity names. On the spectrum of how invested people are in celebrities, I’m hovering very close to the “not at all” extreme. What I do know I tend to pick up either from the covers of magazines while I’m waiting in line at the grocery store or from friends who care more about this stuff than I do. So not only do I not care when one celebrity starts dating another etc, but I usually don’t even know who either of those people are. I found the book peppered with dozens of names I didn’t recognize, though I acknowledge that most people are far more well-versed in this arena than myself.

It’s not so much a criticism as an observation, but there’s not much continuity - or even transitions - between the chapters in this book. This feels more like a collection of essays and each could be subtitled “Mindy’s thoughts on [fill in the blank]” - a collection of sometimes random but nevertheless entertaining musings.

There’s very little about The Office in here. Not a point of complaint for me, but Kaling’s still primarily recognized for her role as Kelly and I expect many people gravitate towards this memoir for that reason. So if you’re expecting a kind of insider’s guide to The Office chock full of cast and backstage trivia, you’ll be disappointed. In my opinion, though, what you get instead is something far more worthwhile.

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