Better Than: Eating ice cream and pickles with Jemima Kirke
Lena Dunham’s book Not That Kind of Girl (Random House, September 30) is full of homages to Helen Gurley Brown, the Cosmopolitan editor who drew ire from feminists and “smut police” alike for “having it all.”
So maybe it’s only fitting that the first stop of her book tour — on Tuesday, at the Union Square Barnes & Noble — was interrupted by an adorable five-month-old baby.
“This isn’t for babies!” Dunham joked at one point during her reading, appearing a little flustered. “I love babies. But this is…sexual!”
The infant’s mother told the Voice that the little girl, named Daria, is a budding feminist who enjoys apple cores and her mother’s lap. Oh, and her mom just happens to be Israeli author and reality television star Shifra Cornfeld.
Dunham would later joke about her shame at calling out Cornfeld. “Your baby is beautiful,” Dunham said. “And growing just as he or she should!”
But before baby Daria could come onstage to visit — inspiring a chorus of “awwws” from the crowd of folks waiting to get their books signed — Dunham had a reading to attend to.
And as she spoke to the crowd of a few hundred at this, the opening night of her author tour for Not That Kind of Girl, it seemed the high priestess of Generation Y was…nervous.
“This is a shit-show!” she said, after mispronouncing the term “VHS.” And, later: “You guys? I can’t even deal.”
In other words: It was the exact kind of performance that has garnered her so much attention, positive and negative. Dunham was a girl among girls (and, OK, a few dudes peppering the audience): likable, imperfect, and natural. Part of that, of course, is the crushing candor her fans have come to love. Choice lines from her book include “Don’t apologize. If I had your mother I’d be a nightmare, too” and “Please let me pay for lunch. You don’t even have a job!”
Flipping through pages, following along as she read, puncturing their rapt attention with laughs at each of the appropriate times — this crowd was wearing its Sunday best.
This show had none of the bruited “local talent” — up-and-coming opening acts that had left Dunham swimming in controversy for hiring new artists without paying them. It was a choice she’s since turned away from, saying she’s going to pay the performers at her events, although handlers declined to let her speak about it in more depth after the reading.
Dunham told the New York Times last week:
“I found the idea of a traditional author tour, where you go and stand behind the lectern and talk about yourself, I found it a little bit embarrassing, a little blatantly self-promotional and a little boring…I wanted it to have an arts festival feel, which is why we now have all these remarkable, special weirdos who I found on the Internet.”
But last night, Dunham was introduced by Amy Schumer, whose provocative brand of humor often involves mixing a cheery attitude with slurs and abortion jokes. An organizer said that for this show, they had never been planning on hosting anyone except Dunham and Schumer, with Schumer taking time at the start to warm up the crowd. (We don’t know if Schumer was paid, but we have asked her publicist, as well as a Random House representative handling Dunham’s book tour. We’ll update this if we hear anything back.)
The two later sat beside each other in chairs on the stage, laughing and pulling from a bucketful of audience questions. That’s when they answered the tough questions, like whether it would be better to “eat mustard for the rest of your life” or “deep-fry your vagina?” (Deep-fry, obviously, because deep-frying makes everything better.)
The ladies also offered pearls of wisdom for those who weren’t interested in cooking their own genitals, like one teenager who asked how to approach the world while sorely lacking in self-esteem.
“Just fake it,” said Schumer. “Fake it till it’s real.”
Dunham agreed, but added that for her, comfort in her skin has come with a career that’s given her a sense of purpose. “Finding something you really love and pursuing it,” she said, “gives you a kind of confidence you can’t even fake.”
Random Detail: A children’s book event for The Day the Crayons Quit had also taken place in the store earlier that day. “I wish I’d written that,” said Dunham, “instead of my rape-y uterus book.”
Overheard Quote: “Avoid having children, and be blowjob-ready at all times”: Dunham, paraphrasing the ideas of Gurley Brown herself.
Notebook Dump: “Jesus fucking Christ. Wow.”