By Jenny Slate
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One of Vanity Fair’s Great Quarantine Reads: Step into Jenny Slate’s wild imagination in this “magical” (Mindy Kaling), “delicious” (Amy Sedaris), and “poignant” (John Mulaney) New York Times bestseller about love, heartbreak, and being alive — “this book is something new and wonderful” (George Saunders).You may “know” Jenny Slate from her Netflix special, Stage Fright, as the creator of Marcel the Shell, or as the star of “Obvious Child.” But you don’t really know Jenny Slate until you get bonked on the head by her absolutely singular writing style. To see the world through Jenny’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 gasses that are science gasses, 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 dazzling, 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, where everything has changed.
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In the middle of the pouring rain she met (explosion) the first thing she could call a boyfriend in her life, her heart beating as if she'd swallowed a little fluttering and captured bird.
—Clarice Lispector, The Hour of the Star
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
"Live in the layers,
not on the litter."
—Stanley Kunitz, "The Layers"
One of my fantasy dimensions is: Strangers on the street see me and think I might be French. You are a stranger. You see me, and you think that there I am, a French Woman. And then you look at me and allow a deeper kind of feeling-sight to occur, and you see past the woman and you sense that I am actually a homemade Parisian Croissant, and I was born in a kitchen in a house with cool stone floors and deep windowsills that hold the light in the shape of a big box, windowsills that are so deep that they could be a desk. I was born as a breakfast pastry in the fancy part of France and hours after I was born I was still warm from the heat of the oven. I knew that my warmth and lovely shape were the result of thoughtful and gentle work. Oh please feel it: I am the croissant that felt its own heat and curves and wished to become a woman, and I am that woman from the wish. Let me be your morning treat with your coffee. Disregard the fear that I am too rich to be an ordinary meal. Allow my antique decadence into your morning into your mouth. Pair me with jam. Treasure me for my layers and layers of fragility and richness. Name me after a shape that the moon makes. Have me in a hotel while you are on vacation. Look at me and say, "Oh, I really shouldn't," just because you want to have me so very much.
There are so many times when I want to be here just for your consumption, just to satisfy your appetite. This is what I feel I am intended for—I can't help it. An intention was inside of me already when I traveled from infinity to a kitchen with a windowsill, to a wish, to a woman.
Hello, do you have expectations about how we should proceed together? We both know quite well that it is risky to reveal oneself, but I am compelled to do it.
Some time ago, I made peace with wanting to be looked at. There's no secret fold within my feeling, no pleat where I force myself to stow a slip of paper that says "shame" on one side and "weakness" on another (both sides scrawled in haughty cursive by the schoolmistress in my psyche who drinks scalding brown tea). I am fine about having the need.
I know that to be seen is to be taken in. My delight, this inclination to sweep into your eyesight, beats in me like an extra heart. It just might bat an eyelash at you. My need to be seen is feather-light and active, with a tongue that licks its lips like a mouse peering out of a teacup, looking at the cheese. My need is a helium-filled balloon that wants to be untethered. What is this spirit in me saying "Up! Up! UP!"? Up for a better view, for a better location to be viewed. Get me to a better place so that I can see more and also be spotted by the kind of people who turn their faces up to the light. Put me in between them and the cosmos, let me be one final stop before the major everything.
And actually, there is more about me that is like a balloon.
Hello, I am a balloon on a string that has been tied to this page to announce, "Party here!"
Tie me to the mailbox to mark the place on the dirt road where everyone must bang a left and drive toward a gathering of dressed-up friends. Let the motion of people attracted to this spot kick up soft brown dust as they accelerate toward the final destination, which is party time.
About your hostess: I am a human woman named Jenny Slate and I am thirty-boink years old. I weigh one hundred and doo-dad pounds. I was born in Massachusetts as a one-second-old hospital baby. I love eating cucumbers and I love the xylophone and the Atlantic Ocean and I am a performer by nature and trade.
That's enough to form a small shape, like a gal-sized gate, into the rest. Here is more of the rest:
When I am on stage, it is mostly my party. But I am hoping to throw it for us, to honor our having the faith to come together and feel something bubbly and balmy as a collective. I am throwing the party for the sake of itself, for your self, and for my self.
On the stage, I am thrilled and moved. But before being seen by you, I have been terrified, often ill-tempered. I have most likely ruined an entire day by fretting about this evening. Just before I open my mouth on the stage (with bright faith in everything—me, you, that the building won't fall down, that I will catch on to the thing that helps me zoom, that a man won't come in and shoot me, etc.), I have most likely used my same mouth and voice to tell everyone backstage, "I know I say this every time, but I feel really off today. I can tell that it's going to be bad."
Once I'm up there, so many feelings happen at once.
The lights are shining right into my face, so I can't really see you; I imagine you as one complex but benevolent identity. I am nervous but also excited for you to see my onstage outfit chosen just for you and the people. It took many tries to choose this one outfit. I was trying to figure out what I want to be wearing when we all fall in love. On stage and everywhere else, I know that there is so much you could do to me. My vulnerability is natural and permissible and beautiful to me, and it should remind you of your responsibility to behave like a friend to me and the world.
I'm setting the tone and the tone is this: There is a free, wild creature up here, and now you must think about how to take her in and keep her alive. This is the tone that is rippling through the pages up ahead.
Just as I get scared to perform, I am afraid to write this book. Across the board, I just get so scared. But I don't want to live in a constant state of trepidation. I want to live in front of you, with you. I tremble myself to pieces when I perform. I also put myself back together and I leave without a limp.
Recently my life fell to pieces. These things happened: Pummeling heartbreak. The sickening experience of watching a racist, homophobic, misogynist bully sit right down in the Oval Office. Loss of confidence. Astounding loneliness. Disempowerment and exhaustion.
This book is the act of pressing onward through an inner world that was dark and dismantled.
This book is me putting myself back together so that I can dwell happily in our shared outer world.
Look! Look at this woman who is both the emergency and the relief. Let me be both (I have no choice). Give in. Fall apart. Look at the pieces. Reassemble. This is the essential movement of my holy flux.
This book is a party—not a set of grievances. It's a weird party for a woman who has returned from grief. It's a peppy procession of all of my little weirds. Many different scenarios present themselves at a really good party. Somebody kisses somebody. Somebody falls. Cake is eaten. Cake is thrown. The lights go out and somebody screams, "My jewels!" You meet your husband for the first time. Somebody gets kicked out. There are snowballs and cannonballs. There are fragments that come together as a whole. My book is a thing in motion—just as you would respond to the question "Is there a party going on?" with the answer "Yes, it is in progress!"
Here it is, a book that represents the wholeness that I built after everything toppled. A book that honors my fragmentation by giving itself to you in pieces. If you want it, you will have to be my partner in giving in to what it is. I had to find my own language and terms.
I am here not just to give myself an opening, not just to direct your view toward an opening, not just to fling you and myself through a density of experience, but, selfishly, so that I can experience the pleasure and honor of hosting you in my private space. It is not a mad or haunted house. But maybe a witch does live here. I am your witch and I nudge the dark waves and I cast the gentle light over the hard terrain. I coax the crocus to open in the frost. I keep the faith and I use it.
My father says, "After a while you understand that you can create and raise the child, but the spirit…the spirit comes from the universe."
You have my permission to come into this space that is made out of broken-up pieces, of shards and perfect circles, slats and slices. It represents the space that I have found to house my spirit, which is from the universe. I was born to host this party. To be in the party, remind you of the party, live at the event, die at the event.
It will be a wild ride, but the fresh air and interesting company are worth all of the frightful bouncing, I believe.
I Was Born: The List
The first thing that happened was that I was born.
And now that I'm shaking out the truth from myself, let's just shake it out for one big shake:
I was born during the great Potato Chip, in the time of Jewish Deli Tongue Sandwich. I was born and the other items that were in the love net in which they caught me were Open Car Windows, Ghosts, Fear, Horniness, Rabbit Holes, Bird Nests, Emily Dickinson, Petticoats, Bustiers, Grapefruit Halves with Maraschino Cherry in the Middle, Chapter Books, Secret Passages, Sesame Street, Mermaids starring Cher, a messy bookstore called New England Mobile Book Fair, Grandparents, Ham for Lunch, Gems, Treehouses, Annie Oakley, Chicken Noodle Soup, Crystal Gayle, Meet Me in St. Louis, A Stage, A Theater, A Camera, A Bra, A Slip, A Mouth, A Butt and Vagina, Beer, Clarice Lispector, A Beech Tree, A Campfire, Romance, Music, Loneliness.
I was born with a love of dressing up and facing this world with an ecstatic and elegant personal style. I was born as a good girl with the kicky ability to skip so much class that I must owe someone (my grandmother) money for the huge bulk of time that they paid for me to be there and I just simply did not show up because I hate sitting still even when I love the thing that I am sitting to see. I was born with the talent for fucking off so majorly. I was born bucking the idea that I should have to be anywhere that I don't like or talk to people who make me feel dead or trapped.
I was born into a world where many men want to oppress all of the women with violence and laws and you or I can't say anything else anymore without also admitting that.
I was born hating how boring Hebrew School is and how breath is really bad in temple, especially on the day that you are fasting and saying sorry for the entire day. It is so hard because I was born with a love of useful rules but also somehow I am always dropping and breaking them and it makes me feel very bad.
I was born with a love of dogs and a fear of horses and I don't want to change the way I feel about either of these things. I was born in a hatbox on a train in the past, when there were dining cars and menus and bud vases and chaperones and dandies. I was born as sweet as that and if I am too sweet for your tastes then just clamp your mouth shut and spin on your heels. I can't add sourness to my sap anymore just to fit onto a menu in a restaurant for wimps.
I was born in the stacks in the Columbia University Library. I was born in shin-guards on a soccer field on a chilly little Saturday morning in the 1980s and I was too scared to even feel the sting of the ball on the inside of my shoe. I was born during tennis. I was born as a backyard swimming pool and my twin sister is an orange Popsicle and my mother is a bowl of pickles and my father is a hamburger.
I was born with a ticking clock inside of me that chirped and rang out many years later and its gears lowered my mouth open for a French kiss and made my skirt light up like a lamp with a shade saying "Someone's awake in here…come see who it is."
I was born in a Shirley Temple, and I came out with the stem of the cherry in my small, strong new hand and I walked that cherry like a dog. I was born ready to care for a pet and be a pet too.
I was born like that.
I was born happy but when anything that is large, alive, and wild gets hurt and confused, I feel so sad, and I notice that I wish I could nurse big scared things. And it is worth mentioning that "big scared thing" is one way to describe how my heart often feels. My heart can feel like an elephant who is feeling dread and has an exceptional memory and naturally possesses something valuable that might be hunted, poached, wasted.
I was born in the Atlantic Ocean, and I pray to goddesses that look like whales and waves and I make tons of wishes. I was born in the day, right before lunchtime, and I arrived with a full appetite and it hasn't settled down at all.
I was born with a fatal allergy to both subtext and traditional organization techniques and I will tell you I have really had a few near-death experiences. I was born two years ago when one of my friends described me as "the least able-to-be-controlled person that I know," and I started living right away.
Fast Bad Baby
When I was a baby I was fast and bad. I was born and my mother says I started walking around right away and she had to put bells on my feet so that she would know where I was going. I was born and I started moving around the space because I wanted to whip around in this world. I never wanted to go to sleep and my mother says I didn't have "first words" but instead I just started talking one day and I've never been able to be very quiet since then. Even in my dreams I talk and make a commotion. In the past, I was a baby and I was running around and my mother didn't know what to do because her baby was so rowdy and speedy compared to other babies she knew. She couldn't lock me up or tell me to slow down because I didn't know why I should listen to her and I just wanted to go fast, so what happened was that she put the little bells on my shoes and that way I was free to roam and she could hear me as I ran ringing through the house. With a bad and fast baby like me, the really worrisome thing would be when the jingles stopped. One time, before she put the bells on to track me, I climbed a dresser, using the drawers like stairs. One time I took a door off its hinges. One time I picked up a wild baby rabbit before it had a chance to run. One time I ate a thermometer. If you let me onto your land, I might be very wild, and I will not be able to totally change myself, but you can always track me by the tinkle of my lively clamor.
Last summer, toward the end of a long walk, my mother went to the side of the dirt road and showed me a plant. I am used to having a rhythm with her in which she shows me something interesting in nature or architecture, and it's like a test: Do you know what it is? And it is very pleasing when I tell her what it is, and then we both enjoy that we both know.
Sometimes I don't
- "This book is something new and wonderful--honest, funny, positive, completely original, and inspiring in the very best way: it made me remember I was alive."—GEORGE SAUNDERS
- "A man on the 2 Express Train read some of Jenny Slate's Little Weirds over my shoulder. 'What kind of book is this?' he asked. 'The best kind,' I replied."—JOHN MULANEY
- "This book is like a stovetop goulash, delicious and varied ingredients, prepared perfectly and excellent with bread...I'm sorry, I lost track of the simile."—AMY SEDARIS
- "Luminous, emotional, lovely, and a little mysterious, this book is something you will savor like a half-remembered, gorgeous dream. You'll finish it feeling like Jenny Slate is your new best friend."—SUSAN ORLEAN, author of THE LIBRARY BOOK and THE ORCHID THIEF
- "Indescribable, but eminently readable, the actor-comedian's book consists of a carnival of observations, ideas and events that may or may not make up a memoir. Basically, Little Weirds is performance art in high-caliber prose."—THE WASHINGTON POST
- "Jenny's writing is wide open, tuneful, tender. She sees the world (and feels the world) like a bug might, two antennae poking out from her head like sensory wands. Reading Little Weirds made me feel tipsy."—DURGA CHEW-BOSE,author of TOO MUCH AND NOT THE MOOD
- "Slate invites us for a glorious swim inside her imagination as she explores romance, heartbreak and self-love in this poetry-memoir-fiction mash-up. It's a work that breaks the mold."—PEOPLE
- "At once warm, heartbreaking, and erotic...a strange, witty, sad journey into the depths of their author's imagination...devastating in their unfiltered honesty, even optimism...showcasing [Slate's] singular poetic forms of expression."—ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY
- "A singularly hilarious and horny, but also poignant and tender, collection of writing that beautifully captures Slate's inimitable voice, which is one that, once you've heard it, you want to listen to forever."—NYLON
- "Reading Jenny Slate's Little Weirds is like digesting Shakespearean sonnets: It's different enough from ordinary English that it takes your brain a few, very-long sentences to adjust to its sweet, flowery prose. But once you've recalibrated, the actress/comedian's book becomes a dreamy dessert for the eyeballs that uses playful language to express deep sentiments about heartbreak, anger, wonder and friendship."—USA TODAY
- "A poetic and dreamlike book, a testament to the power of fantasy and language to hit your feelings where facts and pictures can't. . .Slate's voice never loses its capacity for strangeness, for finding it in the littlest, weirdest corners. And it's this mix of sweet and sadness, real stakes and dreamy prose, that gives this book its soft, sharp, and altogether overwhelming power. Like René Magritte crossed with Lana Del Rey, with strong notes of Patricia Lockwood. Like a carnival ride caught in a tornado, candy-colored shards of metal sparkling in the sky."—TEEN VOGUE
- "If you hadn't previously been aware of Slate's dexterity as a storyteller, [Little Weirds] will be your awakening...The thing about Jenny Slate is that her warmth doesn't just come from her openness. It also comes from her ability to say, with her whole chest, something others would keep hushed away. It's why she's the receptacle of the stories people are normally too embarrassed to tell. When someone articulates so clearly her own hopes and worries and small shames, it feels like an opening to share your own in return."—IN STYLE
- "The inside of Jenny Slate's mind is a fascinating, if unusual, place. In this collage of essays, stories, dreams (both night and day), and pieces that defy easy categorization, the actor and comedian invites readers to pay an extended visit, one that will leave them enlightened, moved and sometimes pleasantly puzzled... a refreshing, original journey."—SHELF AWARENESS
- "Jenny Slate, the polymathic actress, writer and comic, presents a delightfully odd assemblage of vignettes whose magical-realist absurdity is a style all her own."—LOS ANGELES TIMES
- "Across pieces that vary in tone and style, a vulnerable account of losing love and wanting desperately to re-find it emerges. . . This unconventional collection gives true insight into Slate as both an artist and a person."—BOOKLIST (Starred Review)
- "Every so often, someone will decide to stray from the outline and gift us with something so unexpected that it may not tickle our funny bone but it might tickle us pink. Jenny Slate's nonfiction collection Little Weirds is one such book. It's an extremely personal narrative, and there are elements of humor in it, but that may be all it has in common with the efforts of her peers. . . A collection that relies so heavily on whimsy shouldn't be this effective, but the emotions in it are so raw that delving into her words creates an intimate connection to the work."—AV CLUB
- "A collection of not quite stories and not quite essays that are somehow more than both...Holding the book together is Slate's intelligence and eye for the absurd, which is to say her voice... pure joy for her subtlety, sensitivity, and comic timing...Few books explore self-doubt and loneliness with as much fun or creativity...Jenny Slate very much a writer."—LITERARY HUB
- "Humorous, whimsical essays about things that are on Jenny Slate's mind. With a light touch, she tells us honestly what it's like to be her and how she sees the world, one little, weird piece of it at a time."—BOOKRIOT
- "Jenny Slate is an artist in the broadest sense of the word. . . . Adjust your expectation of a run-of-the-mill memoir and ready yourself to drop straight into Slate's imagination. Her ability to paint a meticulous mental picture with nothing but words on a page can only be described as gifted."—ASSOCIATED PRESS
- "Slate offers an intimate window into not only her mind, but her heart. The result is a dazzling, sensory gift for poetry lovers and fans of Slate's distinctly odd, but deeply charming humor."—PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
"Little Weirds explores the oddities-and magic-of everyday life...Less an essay collection and more a map of her brain...Little Weirds chattily chronicles Slate's highs and lows and dips and swoops as if the actress is absorbing sunshine through an I.V."
- "The mind that made you fall in love with a tiny shell hang-gliding on a Dorito does similarly strange, albeit more grown-up work in this collection of essays, which touches on everything from haunted houses to a vagina singing sad old songs."—BUSTLE
- "Slate's voice remains an eccentric and powerful central force as she comments on politics, patriarchy and her personal life."—TIME
- "She can act! She can do stand-up! And yes: Jenny Slate can write, too. Slate gets vulnerable in Little Weirds, a memoir that touches on her first marriage, her post-election anxiety, and new beginnings."—REFINERY29
- "A delight to read. It's a collection of beautiful, hilarious, genuine essays and really is meant for times when you feel heavy. Slate jumps between deeply considering a dead deer on her parents property, to transcribing her borderline surrealist dreams, to poignantly investigating heartache and the forms it takes in such a genuine way I couldn't help but feel that it was written by a friend for me."—VANITY FAIR
- "Slate seems to fit so comfortably inside the poetic realms of her impressive imagination that she has no need to abandon them, not even when she is rebuking the pernicious ugliness of male patriarchy, another element that has heavily impacted her life. In one particularly powerful interlude, the author achieves biblical grandeur, envisioning herself ripping out the ancient evil root and stem...A uniquely talented writer and performer offers up an unexpectedly uncommon approach to autobiographical writing."—KIRKUS REVIEWS
- "Little Weirds is full of soft and lovely moments... Slate beautifully evokes the pleasures of female friendship."—NPR.ORG
- "Slate got what most major comedians get -- a book deal -- and the result is wholly original and uniquely hers...She writes in this lyrical, musical, even poetic way. The guardedness typical of the comedian memoir is thus gloriously stripped away... She manages to be whimsical but hilarious but vulnerable."—VULTURE, The 10 Best Comedy Books of 2019
- "Both vulnerable and moving, a party even non-party-goers might like to attend."—LIBRARY JOURNAL
- "The stand-up comedian and actress dips into every nook and cranny of her mind to bring forth original, funny, tender, and above all, magical observations about life."—POPSUGAR
- "Jenny Slate is a little weird (in a very good way). Her aptly named collection of personal essays, Little Weirds, gives readers a glimpse into her strangely funny and tender, magically delicious mind...Slate's writing style is deeply personal, yet her prose is crisp to the taste."—AMAZON, Editor's Choice
- "Little Weirds isn't the typical comedian's memoir, but it's the rare work of art that's somehow both delightfully bizarre and totally universal."—BUST MAGAZINE
- On Sale
- Nov 5, 2019
- Page Count
- 240 pages
- Little, Brown and Company