Year in Reading

A Year in Reading: Tess Malone

By posted at 6:00 am on December 20, 2014 5

2014 has been a year of transition for me. After 19 years of being a student, I graduated with my master’s in journalism from the University of Missouri in May. By the end of the month, I moved to Atlanta, a city I had only been to twice before. And in the beginning of June, I started work as a copy editor for a magazine. Yes, I’m a single girl living on her own in the bright, big city and working in journalism — my life is a romantic comedy waiting for Ryan Gosling to arrive.

covercoverAlthough my books were some of the first things I unpacked when I got to my new apartment, considering I close read for a living now, I haven’t had much time to read for fun. But the books I did read fell into a certain category: young women trying to figure out their place in a new world (I wonder why?). My new city survived two historic fires and is often a backdrop in apocalyptic TV shows and movies, so I didn’t have a hard time getting sucked into Edan Lepucki’s California and Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven. Edan’s end of the world is shockingly intimate and real — and all the more terrifying because of this. I loved both Cal and Frida even though they stubbornly tried to get me not to, and I decided my artifact would be a beer opener. Emily’s dystopia is visceral yet hopeful — the kind that keeps you up late to read more. Yet the most provocative book in this category wasn’t in a not-so-distant and bleak future, it was immediate and raw. The best book I read in 2014 was Lena Dunham’s Not that Kind of Girl.

covercoverI should note that I started off 2014 trying to absorb all of the wit and wisdom in The Most of Nora Ephron, but half a year later, I needed someone more relatable, someone who didn’t have it all. After all, the title of Lena’s book is about defining yourself by what you aren’t, my favorite and most detrimental 20-something hobby. Yet in Lena, I found a girl who made the same mistakes I had or even worse, but she could write about it with a humor, vulnerability, and the self-awareness that was missing from Hannah Horvath. But like her alter ego, Lena doesn’t apologize for who she is even as she admits some terribly intimate secrets and character flaws, and this is why she is both one of the strongest voices in film and, now, evidently, in writing. Plus, the book is hilarious. Whether you like her or not, Lena Dunham is a new literary voice to be reckoned with — cutting, funny, and sometimes brutal.

And this is the type of writer and woman I want to be, not fodder for a Ryan Gosling film, but witty, honest, and strong.

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5 Responses to “A Year in Reading: Tess Malone”

  1. Stop the insanity
    at 3:24 pm on December 20, 2014

    Tess Malone, judging by your promotion of Dunham’s book I strongly disagree with your self evaluation as a “close” reader. You may be a close friend of Lena’s,
    but a “close” reading of her book can only lead to disbelief that it was ever published. Oh wait! Lena’s a celebrity. And I just reread Tess, that you are under 25. So I take it back.

  2. Gina
    at 11:47 am on December 21, 2014

    This is lovely! Twenty years ago I was a single girl living alone in the bright, big city — also a copy editor. Now I am old and jaded, and I have often wondered what Lena Dunham means to women her own age.

  3. Moe Murph
    at 2:22 pm on December 21, 2014

    Suggest that if you would like to watch the Millions Comment section light up like a Roman candle (and perhaps spontaneously combust) you collaborate with Blake Butler on an “experimental” review of the next season of “Girls,” focusing on Hannah Horvath’s tenure at The Iowa Writers’ Workshop. :)

    Moe Murph
    The Girls Can’t Help It

  4. priskill
    at 8:39 pm on December 21, 2014

    MM: HAH! Happy holidays, Moe!

    And I really liked this piece — it actually made me interested in the book. And I love the personal spin you gave it, and your take on young women trying to figure it all out. Had not seen that specifically in Station 11 until you said it. Thanks

  5. Moe Murph
    at 9:23 am on December 22, 2014

    Tess, I second “Priskill’s” opinion. I too love the personal spin and your evocative description of Dunham’s “voice..” Strong!

    Happy Holidays!

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