Saturday, 20 January 2018

Cat Person

We are never meeting in real life (2017) is a collection of essays by Chicago-based writer Samantha Irby, which appeared on countless 'best books' lists. The reviews intrigued me, so I chose to begin my reading year with her book.

From the opening essay "My Bachelorette Application" I was hooked. Irby describes herself as 'passably female', '35ish (but could pass for 46 to 52 easily; sixtysomething if I stay up all night)', looking for 'someone too lazy to cheat' and 'who will leave me the hell alone for extended periods of time without getting all weird about it'.

Irby is hilarious, snarky, bitter and fun. She has no filter, is prone to over-sharing, and wildly self-depreciating. She talks openly about her weight, her Crohn's disease and other health complaints, her love-hate relationship with her cat, her sex life, and her job as a client services director at a veterinary practice.

Beneath this hilarity are dark truths that need to be told. She writes about being raised in poverty by an ill mother and an absent father, homelessness, health, race, and other real-world problems.  There is a cynical, sharp edge behind the humour, such as her fear of dying without tidying her home and deleting her browser history.

This book is not for everyone. The language is colourful and explicit, the subject matter is often uncomfortable. Indeed, while I enjoyed the bulk of the essays, there were times I felt like her confessional style was veering towards too much over-sharing. But it is up to her what aspects of her private self she chooses to protect.

I am glad I learned about Irby and I look forward to reading her Bitches Gotta Eat blog. On the strength of this book, Irby now has a TV deal so I will be interested to see what she comes up with next.