To see the world through comedian Jenny Slate’s eyes is to see it as though for the first time, shimmering with strangeness and possibility. As she will remind you, we live on an ancient ball that rotates around a bigger ball made up of lights and gases that are science gases, not farts (don’t be immature). Heartbreak, confusion and misogyny stalk this blue-green sphere, yes, but it is also a place of wild delight and unconstrained vitality, a place where we can start living as soon as we are born, and we can be born at any time. In her impossible-to-categorize debut, Jenny channels the pain and beauty of life in writing so fresh, so new and so burstingly alive, we catch her vision like a fever and bring it back out into the bright day with us, and everything has changed.
Well, I am so sensitive and I am very fragile but so is everything else, and living with a dangerous amount of sensitivity is sort of what I have to do sometimes, and it is so very much better than living with no gusto at all. And I’d rather live with a tender heart, because that is the key to feeling the beat of all the other hearts… I am tired of sinking down to a lower place to be with men. I am tired of throwing a tarp over some of my personality so that the shape of my identity suits some gross man a little better for whatever shitty things he needs to do in order to keep his boring identity erect and supreme.
For those unacquainted with Jenny Slate, which might be the majority of my British readership, she is an American actress, stand-up comedian, and author best known as the creator of the Marcel the Shell With Shoes On short films, which was also spun off into a children’s book as well being a cast member on Saturday Night Live with recurring roles on House of Lies, Parks and Recreation and Bob’s Burgers. Her debut biography, Little Weirds, was released by Little, Brown towards the end of last year.
Let me preface this by saying that Jenny Slate is a genius and I just might be in love with her. Little Weirds, Slate’s compilation of essays on life and love and everything in between is more than a little weird. In fact, it’s utterly bonkers. Yet, it is beautiful. Getting a glimpse inside Slate’s zany, and for lack of a better term, ‘quirky’ mind was such an enjoyable experience even if felt like a strange acid trip at times.
With Spring firmly on our doorstep and with myself adjusting to new circumstances, Little Weirds felt like the perfect read to issue in this period of rebirth and new beginnings. Sure, it’s wacky at times and one has to really concentrate to keep up with Slate, but the way she writes is so lovely. Slate has somehow managed to emulate the joy and fervor that a bunch of flowers radiates and carefully insert it into a book. I never read something so incredibly bizarre yet so entirely heartwarming/wrenching. It truly is an extraordinary feat.
However, I am well aware that Little Weirds will not be everyone’s cup of tea. It is self-indulgent – but I’d argue what memoir isn’t these days? – and it is madness. For example, Slate’s opening essay about being a croissant. It isn’t some cutesy ‘Oh, I’m like a croissant!’. No, prepare yourselves for Slate to get super into her metaphors. Like specifics. She is specifically this croissant, in this French country kitchen, before she immediately moves onto an entirely new topic of discussion and while it all sounds slightly crazy, it’s part of the ride and what makes Little Weirds such a unique experience to read.
Perhaps, I loved it because I could relate to Slate (and I’m apparently also a poet). For something so odd and quirky, you can tell how deeply personal this memoir is to Slate and how much of her soul she poured into writing it. Her childlike wonder mixed with refreshing honesty allowed me to connect with Slate and really grasp what she was getting at with her rambles and long, extended metaphors. In this time of uncertainty, worldwide and personal, there was something so soothing about Slate’s vulnerability. Not to mention, that I feel like for all her weirdness, Jenny Slate and I share similar perspectives when it comes to matters of the heart and our own individual tenderness.
While I’m nowhere near and can only hope to be as kooky and creative as Jenny Slate, Little Weirds felt validating to me. I didn’t realise how much I’d needed a source affirmation for my own quirkiness and emotional thinking right now until I began reading. With Zoom gatherings and dates currently being the only source of social interaction, Little Weirds took on the role of the best friend that gives you a hug, tells you everything’s going to be fine and also tells you to change out of your pyjamas, go outside and not wallow in self-pity too long.
Jenny Slate, if you’re reading this, I am free next Thursday to discuss red geraniums so hmu to discuss red geraniums next Thursday when I am free. That is all.
And for those uninitiated with Slate, here’s a quick clip of her storytelling prowess (also buy Little Weirds):