A book of not-quite essays, not-quite short stories, Little Weirds is a manifestation of actress Jenny Slate’s personal life experiences in the wider context of patriarchy. Using sharp contrasts of delicate flowery language and blunt words, it contains glimpses into her life and heartbreak during the years surrounding the Trump administration. Slate draws on her own life first, writing about the male gaze and opening herself up to be devoured, before panning out to consider how the culture we live in paints women as delectable.
Instead of using harsh rhetoric, Slate elects to write in “abstract terms” and her sentences tend to wander, stumbling into each other in their eagerness to spill her feelings. The resulting writing is jumpy and at times confusing: sometimes, it isn’t entirely clear what she’s trying to convey. Additionally, while the use of language is occasionally comedic, it detracts from any serious point that Slate is trying to make. When you are able to follow her wandering, indulgent sentences to their conclusions, it can sometimes leave you struggling to remember what she was talking about and this greatly reduces the impact of her words.
It’s not unlike Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar in the way that it wades through the writer’s emotions but lacks the structure and prose that makes The Bell Jar enjoyable
While Slate pours her feelings into the book, the reader will likely take little away from reading this collection if they don’t initially connect with the writer. Slate admitted to The Guardian that she wrote the book “as if (she) were the only one who would ever read it” and the book itself comes across as very self-indulgent. It’s not unlike Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar in the way that it wades through the writer’s emotions but lacks the structure and prose that makes The Bell Jar enjoyable. While the book is vulnerable and honest, it’s difficult to connect to as a reader because Slate makes little attempt to connect to a reader: it quickly becomes obvious that the book is more of a monologue than a conversation.
Many of the essays are about the feeling of loneliness, which suggests that Slate wrote the book as a form of catharsis and a way of dealing with those feelings. This isn’t a limitation of writing on political and personal crises. Other writers, such as Maya Angelou, have written about their personal experiences in the context of wider oppression without alienating the reader. However, the book itself feels very distant. At times, it feels like you’ve mistakenly picked up a diary rather than a book and it can feel uncomfortable, almost like prying, and seems too self-absorbed to appeal to most readers.
The abstract imagery can be confusing and often it takes conscious effort to follow what’s happening
Perhaps the book is intended to have more of a comedic effect, while tackling real world issues. However, the humour is often blunt and cuts through the flow of the prose, making it more irritating than enjoyable. Slate fails to find an adequate balance between emotion and humour; instead, the two are uncomfortable contrasts that leave the reader confused as to whether they’re supposed to laugh or empathise with the writer. Additionally, the attempted humour and Slate’s career as a comedian make it unclear whether or not the book is supposed to be taken seriously.
One thing that sets this book apart from other memoirs is the use of magical realism throughout the text. When used effectively, like in Angela Carter’s feminist writings, magical realism can criticise contemporary society and create a sense of meta-fiction for the reader. However, Slate’s use results in her book seeming very hazy and hard to follow, making it unclear which parts are fiction and which parts are reality. The abstract imagery can be confusing and often it takes conscious effort to follow what’s happening.
For readers interested in non-conventional memoirs, which explore girlhood and womanhood in a dream-like way, some of the sharp emotions and memories featured in this book might resonate with them. However, those who are looking for a story or an accessible memoir will probably find little in this book.