Bjørn reviews Quietly Hostile: Essays, a collection of satirical by Samantha Irby.
|Genre:||personal essays, satire|
|Date of Publishing:||May 16, 2023|
|Trigger Warnings:||language, having bodily functions, illness|
Samantha Irby invites us to share in the gory particulars of her real life, all that festers behind the glitter and glam.
The success of Irby’s career has taken her to new heights. She fields calls with job offers from Hollywood and walks the red carpet with the iconic ladies of Sex and the City. Finally, she has made it. But, behind all that new-found glam, Irby is just trying to keep her life together as she always had.
Her teeth are poisoning her from inside her mouth, and her diarrhea is back. She gets turned away from a restaurant for wearing ugly clothes, she goes to therapy and tries out Lexapro, gets healed with Reiki, explores the power of crystals, and becomes addicted to QVC. Making light of herself as she takes us on an outrageously funny tour of all the details that make up a true portrait of her life, Irby is once again the relatable, uproarious tonic we all need.
After I finished reading Quietly Hostile, Samantha Irby’s fourth book of essays, something didn’t quite compute. Irby is my auto-buy author, and there are few of them. My trust in her is infinite. But now… it turned out that Infinity can have worn-off edges and be in need of rest, which I achieved by returning to her first collection, Meaty.
Quietly Hostile is a perfectly competent book. It maintains Irby’s complete lack of filter when it comes to bodily functions (it’s one of those books you sometimes have to read with your eyes closed). There are bits about her dating life. And there is a lot about Samantha writing for TV. For …And Just Like That and for a show actually based on Meaty, which never happened, because in order to produce that, you would have to remove all the words from Meaty and replace them with ones from…
Samantha Irby became a viral sensation (what’s the typing equivalent of bleaching your eyes? I’m doing that now) thanks to her blog, bitches gotta eat. It was hilarious and it was heart-breaking, and it did not feature things such as grammar or capital letters and there was bold and colours and !!!!!!!!!!! so many EXCLAMATION MARKS !!!!!!!!!! My first thought – and the reason why I went back to Meaty – was that maybe this is what I miss. Quietly Hostile is nicely edited, there are capital letters where they should be (even P in AirPod is capitalised!!!!!!!!!) – maybe this was it? Too cleaned up? But Meaty is the same. Except the emotional punch is that of Mike Tyson on a bad hair day discovering he put on socks in different colours. I laugh my moobs off before finding myself breathlessly sobbing.
My original review of Meaty was three stars. That book was too much for me, back then. I couldn’t handle feeling so much.
I share a lot with the younger Irby. Well, as much as a white boy can share with a Black girl. I’ll spare you the details, but we’ve gone through a surprising amount of similar shit. I loved the blog, because it spoke to me, and then Meaty kind of yelled straight into my heart. Quietly Hostile is a nice read, but apart from skimming it now to make sure it really is not as-great-as-I-expected (reader, it isn’t) I can’t see myself going back to it. As for Meaty, I am halfway through, and just had to take a break, because I finished the essay about her mother. While I was eating dinner. I have no problems reading about bodily functions over dinner – guess what, we all have them, except Irby talks about them LOUD while most of us try to pretend that they only use the toilet to wash their hands from other people’s germs. But… you don’t disrespect that read by eating.
Quietly Hostile is a nice toilet read, as in, something you keep there, so while you are experiencing a surprisingly long number two (Irby would phrase this very differently) you can reach for the paperback and read a few pages. Life of a TV writer: very unglamorous. Buying lots of stuff from TV networks: silly, but who cares, life is short. Sam wears a hoodie and track pants to the …And Just Like That premiere. Obviously, I am not saying she should go back to being sad, lonely, and without money. It’s just that I am none of those things either, yet our roads have somehow split. Meaty is everything. Quietly Hostile is a lot of humble bragging.
In a way, the cover quotes, er, cover it. Meaty: “Irby has the rare ability to divulge her personal problems to an expansive, invisible Internet audience and still dazzle a crowded room of literati.” (Chicago Magazine) Quietly Hostile: “Wildly, seditiously funny… Our great bard of quarantine.” (Parul Sehgal, The New York Times) Based only on the NYT quote, can you even guess the genre?
I’m glad Quietly Hostile exists, but I will read the sample of Irby’s next book before buying it.
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