A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
I didn’t know who the author was until I saw her on Chelsea Handler’s talk show promoting this book. Handler, who presents herself as cranky and cynical, ladled rare praise on the book and Kaling herself was appealing.
Turns out, Chelsea Handler was right about this book, it’s very funny. Kaling, who was a cast member on “Saturday Night Live” and currently plays Kelly Kapoor on “The Office” sitcom, has a wonderfully self-depreciating style of writing. She doesn’t pretend to be hip and jaded, though her observations are sharp and sarcastic.
Unlike many comedians, Kaling has warm memories of growing up in a stable home in Boston with her brother and Indian-American parents, her mom a doctor and dad an architect. Her biggest problem was being “non-thin”, which she’s struggled with all of her life, trying one diet after another. “It’s only a matter of time before the Jane Austen Diet comes out and I’m really looking forward to spending a spring adhering to that one.” However, if you look at the many snapshots scattered through the book, her childhood chubbiness has melted away to a normal size adult. But maybe, in Hollywood, normal sized isn’t normal?
Though her career on the stage at first seemed detoured through professional nannyhood, it finally took flight when she and a friend wrote and starred in a play “Matt and Ben”, where they pretended to be Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. What started out as joke between them, soon became an Off Broadway success. That led to a stint on the iconic “Saturday Night Live” and then to Emmy Awards in the American version of “The Office”. Though Kaling mentions these shows, it’s not necessary to have watched them to read the book, they are a small part of her many amusing anecdotes.
In between her work stories, she natters on about popular culture, dating, friendships and general observations. All sprinkled with literary and historical references. She is embarrassed about a teenaged crush on Pierce Brosnan, but spot-on with her collection of female stereotypes in films, such as “The 42 year old mother of the 30 year old leading man”. She writes from the point of view of the underdog, with complete absence of self-pity. She is astute without being barbed, “I simply regard romantic comedies as a subgenre of sci-fi, in which the world created therein has different rules than my regular human world.”
There is a sweetness to Kaling without sappiness. Irony without nastiness. It was refreshing to read a book about a celebrity who is well balanced and witty. I actually laughed out loud a number of times while reading. And really, for a comedian, what could be better?
Crown Publishing Group 2011 197 pp. ISBN-13:978-0307886262 available in eBook and traditional formats