Review | Samantha Irby is not quiet, never mind the title of her new book

Samantha Erby dedicates her new book to Zoloft. It is a fitting tribute. I “Silent hostility.“The writer-comedian has submitted 17 essays that explore — with wry humor — some sensitive subjects, including his depression.

Irbie has struggled with illness for years. His last bookWow, no thankswas dedicated to Wellbutrin. Throughout his collections of articles (including “We never meet in real life.“And”meaty”), he has shared the experience candidly, often to extremes. Both her parents died when Arby was 18 years old. “This tells you everything you need to know about my father,” she writes. “He was bad at gambling and always running from the consequences of his actions.” His mother had multiple sclerosis, and her condition worsened after that. an accident When Irby was 9 years old. “When I was a real kid growing up on welfare with a sick mom and expired Tuna Helper from the dollar store, the future and its limitless possibilities spread out before me like a glorious buffet. were in which I could not afford to go.”

But Irby, 43, is not deterred. She finds the funny in the scary — and thankfully for our readers, we also enjoy making us laugh. Expect page-turning humor from “Silent Hostility,” a book that’s anything but quiet, though perhaps a little antagonistic.

Liberal with exclamation marks (the woman loves them!!!!) and self-deprecating, Arby has a keen ability to root out the absurdities of his existence and the ordinary things of life, then use them for laughs. Mine the absurdity. They cover Dave Matthews Band’s greatest romantic hits, gay nun porn, getting high at night and thinking about whales, tips for looking cool in front of teenagers, anaphylactic shock, a very bad dog, and plumbs a variety of topics like a guide to bathroom etiquette. Which would cause Emily Post to rise from the grave, shudder at the repeated, graphic and colorful references to human waste, and die of shame again.

In “David Matthews’s Greatest Romantic Hits,” Irby has written a detailed list of 14 songs, each chosen after specific lyrics she finds most romantic among the chosen lyrics and a one- to four-paragraph explanation. and in “Chub Street Diet,” a play on the weeklyThe Grub Street DietA food diary written by celebrities and other notables for New York magazine’s food blog, Arby records what she eats every day for six days. At the top of the diary is a misguided introduction from the Grub Street editors: “Samantha Irby had the most boring week ever because she doesn’t live in a puritanical adventure town, and we told her we wouldn’t publish it.” If only it was detailed. Description of every menu item at Olive Garden. Honestly, we’re not sure why we asked to partake in it in the first place. … The eagerness to please was obvious. What a mistake. “

Irbe’s slightly skewed approach allows for some interesting ideas, such as in his essay about the days before the coronavirus. Accounts of pre-Covid life are often poignant, vivid memories of quotidian rituals and routines we took for granted – subway rides without worrying about infected air, laughing with friends without considering the speed of droplets. Or they are reminiscing about what was lost: employment, housing, health, life itself.

Erby’s take is different. In “The Last Normal Day,” she muses that random impulse purchases (luxury candles, a mega-pack of paper towels, collagen powder, Tide Pods, ugly sweaters) panic-ordered her return from corporate housing. has been) to his Michigan home. She was writing for the canceled Showtime series “Work in Progress” in Chicago. He didn’t have a single box, and the thought of several trips in an elevator full of potentially deadly germs filled him with dread. He figures it out, but the article ends in tragedy — involving, of all things, a corn dog.

Not every swing can be a home run. As with any assortment of goods — articles, chocolates, socks — some win more than others. “Superfan!!!!!!!!,” Irby’s 30-plus page essay on “Sex and the City” is a lengthy compilation of what-ifs, detailing the ways in which It would have changed several episodes of the popular series. Irby had a hand in the “Sex and the City” (SATC) reboot. She was a writer for “And Just Like That …” But these suggested adaptations are out of the question: What if Charlotte married her vibrator in Season 1, Episode 9? What if Carrie started wearing flat shoes and plain clothes in Season 3, Episode 16? This article is presented with various aspects: Charlotte’s defense, Irby’s favorite SATC boyfriends and her top eight carry outfits. It’s a laborious thesis that even an SATC fan (but maybe not a superfan) might find tedious.

But the beating heart of this book is Erby’s parents. “Is it bad that I don’t remember them?” Irby writes in an essay about family, later adding: “When I want to both feel sad and punish myself for not being sad, I will present an idealized version of my parents. And force myself to think of a life that never could have been. . Mind, picture my mother, Grace, without multiple sclerosis and Sam laughing carelessly, wartime KP. Without TSD, or alcoholism, and not punching me in the face for washing dishes… In general, to me they represent two meatballs.”

Ouch, but as you read about these people, you get the point. That’s the thing about Erby: she takes readers in winding, surprising, emotionally vulnerable and strange directions, but you can ultimately see where she’s headed. It’s all true — and it’s also riotously funny.

Nneka McGuire, former editor of Lily, is a freelance writer in Chicago.

Vintage 304 page paperback, $17

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