I tend to read most books written by female comedians. I have read every book written by Ellen Degeneres, Chelsea Handler, Sarah Silverman, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Rachel Dratch, Judy Greer, Kathy Griffin, and Miranda Hart. I don’t know what it is, but there is something really pleasant about winding down at night with a cup of tea and reading a few chapters by someone who makes you laugh and tells you funny stories and makes hilarious observations about life and the world around. They aren’t great pieces of literature, and most of the contents I can’t recall even just a few days after finishing one of these books, but they are entertaining and they pass the time better than binging on some terrible show online at 10 o’clock at night. It’s escapism at its finest, especially for someone who reads for a living and holds several degrees in literature. Also, it’s fun!
A few years ago I read Mindy Kaling’s first book, Is Everyone Hanging Out With Me? (And Other Concerns). I don’t remember particularly loving it, but I don’t recall hating it as well. I knew Mindy Kaling solely based on her acting stint on the American version of The Office. If I had seen her in any other film or television program I cannot recall those roles. Due to my spending habits Amazon alerted me that Kaling’s new book, Why Not Me?, was available for preorder and so I purchased it and then forgot about it until it arrived at my doorstep on Tuesday morning. I bought it in spite of the fact that I have never watched a single episode of Kaling’s TV show The Mindy Project and haven’t followed her career, aside from noticing that she was one of the voice actors for this summer’s Pixar movie Inside Out, which I reviewed a couple of months ago on this site. Either way I got the book and it only took me a couple of days to finish it.
It’s a very easy read and Kaling utilizes an extremely conversational and colloquial tone when writing, which makes the read feel even speedier. The content of this book was, to me, very disappointing and extremely frivolous, especially because written by someone who is 36 years old but expresses herself like a teenager who only speaks in hyperbole and humblebrags (she manages to mention that she went to Dartmouth so many times over the course of the scant 200-some pages that it was almost nauseating). She also tends to write her book like one of those blind item columns that for fear of getting sued writes a really juicy gossipy story about famous people and then keeps the identities of those involved a secret, Kaling does the same with some of her Hollywood based stories but leaves out the identities of stars and starlets, lest these revelations get her into trouble. It’s a frustrating read, especially because it’s clear that this actress and television writer and producer is very smart and driven, yet she tends to gloss over these aspects of her life (as well as tragedies or difficult moments like the barely alluded to death of her mother) and instead focuses on her love of clothes, sleeping, and her schedule (with dozens of photos to prove that she likes cake, loves napping, and gets her hair done a lot).
There are a couple of redeeming moments in the text, especially when she takes on a slightly more serious tone and addresses weight issues or insecurity, but mostly the tone is vapid and superficial when the women behind these words seems not to be. If she were able to transfer her sense of humor into hilarity this could perhaps be forgiven, but unfortunately the book isn’t very funny. I get that her schtick is that she is the girl next door who talks to you like a friend would, but I don’t pay my friends to hang out with me and make me laugh, whereas I did spend money on the book and expected something a little more out of it. Given my disappointment, next time around I will be sure to hang out with somebody else, and not Kaling.