A lot of the negative reviews of this book on Goodreads seem to be from people who had issues with the amount of swearing, sex (including queer sex), and bathroom emergencies in these twenty essays. Those things are all fine with me, but humor as a genre isn’t always my thing: it’s rare for this kind of book to get to “I loved it” territory for me. That said, I definitely liked this book, some pieces more than others. Anything involving reality TV (or, honestly, TV in general) is kinda lost on me, so the personal essay in the form of a faux application to be on the Bachelorette that opens the book was not my fave. But things got better for me from there. Shared pop-culture reference-points in this kind of personal essay are fun, and Irby and I are around the same age, so even though the TV stuff was not for me, I was there for the Tori Amos/Ani DiFranco/Mazzy Star/Portishead references—and yes, I too had Björk’s “Post” on cassette.

Highlights for me included essays about relationship dynamics, from “A Blues for Fred” (about getting to a place of being friends with an ex) to “Mavis” (about sex and intimacy with her then-girlfriend/now-wife) to “I’m In Love and It’s Boring” (reflecting on dating an unavailable guy from the place of being in a happy/stable relationship) to “Thirteen Questions to Ask Before Getting Married” (in which Irby answers the titular thirteen questions, which come from a New York Times article). I also really liked “Happy Birthday” (which is about learning about the death of her semi-estranged father) and “Nashville Hot Chicken” (about a trip to scatter her father’s ashes), both of which are more serious/nuanced than funny per se. As far as straight-up humor goes, I loved “A Civil Union”, which involves going to a wedding in suburban Illinois and stumbling upon a Civil War re-enactment.

One Response to “We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby”

  1. E Says:

    I’m 100% with you on Sam Irby’s writing, though I was halfway through it before I realized I read a different book of hers! She’s super funny and the cringe-y parts are self-deprecating in a way that I find relatable rather than mean. The serious and heartwarming pieces come out of nowhere and that makes them more effective (to me).

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