365 Books in 365 Days – Episode 196 by Annie Walton Doyle

Little Weirds by Jenny Slate

“As the image of myself becomes sharper in my brain and more precious, I feel less afraid that someone else will erase me by denying me love.”

Written in the aftermath of her marriage’s breakdown and under the shadow of Donald Trump’s 2016 Presidential win, Jenny Slate’s Little Weirds is a book about radical self-acceptance and compassion. Slate felt the world, both personal and political, had broken her down, and she needed to remake herself. In doing so, she refamiliarized herself with all of her personal ‘little weirds,’ the quirks and flaws that make her who she is. 

The tone of the book is undeniably sweet, but manages not to veer off into the territory of twee. This is largely thanks to the uniqueness of Slate’s narrative voice – she’s unafraid to look towards the dark, but always makes sure to imbue even the saddest and scariest experiences with hope and light. “Well, I am so sensitive and I am very fragile but so is everything else, and living with a dangerous amount of sensitivity is sort of what I have to do sometimes, and it is so very much better than living with no gusto at all. And I’d rather live with a tender heart, because that is the key to feeling the beat of all of the other hearts.”

As you’d probably expect from Jenny Slate, there is a wry, comedic undertone that runs throughout the book. This is often focused on the absurdity of modern life, which she lambasts particularly sharply in ‘The Restaurant.’ “Hello, I am a woman here on this ancient ball that rotates with a collection of other balls around a bigger ball make up of lights and gasses that are science gasses, not farts. Don’t be immature. I wear this paint and these bags and this butt-vagina fabric-map so that I can be here on the globe and go to places like the Restaurant.”

Slate grants herself unusual grace and care in terms of her self-examination. While in the hands of a less loveable narrator, this may be seen as a rather indulgent pursuit, Slate manages to use what she discovers about herself as a means of commenting on the lived human (and more specifically, female) experience. 

There’s immense strength to be found in softness, Slate poses. Treating yourself and the world with compassion and love is the most revolutionary act there is.  “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.” Her unflinching look at the sadness, solitude, and heartbreak of being alive, and her decision to keep doing so with boundless empathy and care is undeniably brave. 

But in case that all sounds a little too embarrassingly sincere for you, don’t fear. Little Weirds is also packed full of the bizarre escapades you’d expect from the title. In one memorable surreal ‘weird,’ Slate imagines herself as a croissant, in scrupulous detail, for pages at a time. Slate also packs the book with eminently quotable, elegant, and witty quips. “A psychic recently looked right into the eternal cosmos and then returned to me with this elegant yet cryptic message: Grow up.”

By looking closely and carefully at her life, Slate discovers that she is all she needs. One can only hope to follow her example. “I am that mysterious stranger that I hoped to meet. I met her at a dark dance. We came here to live together until I could stay by myself. The place is here. The time is now. This is all my lifetime.”

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