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Book Review: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

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Grrr, was this book of essays a let-down.  To begin with, I was enamored of the author prior to my purchase of her book.  I love Mindy Kaling, who presents, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), this collection of essays relating to her life.  I love her as Kelly Kapoor on The Office, and given that she has been writing for the NBC comedy since its inception, I’d imagine that much of my enjoyment in the show may be credited to her.

After my recent disappointment in Hilary Winston’s book, I was hopeful that Kaling’s work would be a funnier read; she has the street-cred to back that up.  And I was particularly excited upon reading her introduction, one I thought charming and humorous.  I looked forward to the introduction’s tone being carried through to the rest of the work.  Alas, it wasn’t.  Kaling is clearly smart.  She is well-written and thoughtful and I’m not going to pretend that I don’t secretly (or secretly until now) want to find her and force-friend her (a technique almost always well-received).  She’s articulate and that made it readable, but not funny enough.  Not for the level of humor of which Kaling is clearly capable.

As was the case with my last comedienne read, I zipped through the book.  I actually read it over the course of a couple hours the other night before bed.   And once again, my level of engagement and ability to fly through it didn’t leave me with a particularly good feeling about what I had read.  My best reading experiences (though I suppose they are traditionally for fiction works) are ones at whose conclusion I feel disoriented as I am thrust back into the real world; sad that I must part with the world in which I was immersed.  I distinctly remember this happening when I read Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie years ago.  I remember finishing it and looking around utterly unsure what to do with myself.  And yes, those experiences are rare and perhaps should be.  The magnitude of experience would likely diminish if every literary work evoked a similar reaction.  But there is something in between those and these quick, little inconsequential reads.  I suppose a part of me wishes I might expect more of those who see fit to publish their works.

And beyond the relative dearth of funny, the book felt pointless.  It seemed like an instance of I’m funny, I’m famous, I should obviously write a book! People want to hear from me!  And that is alright, I suppose.  It can be cathartic or fun or just plain meaningful to get some of your life experience down on paper and share it.  No harm done, really.  Nothing much added to the literary world.  But what makes the motivation more suspect, and maybe this is unfair, is that it was clear that the book had been thrown together very recently (based on references to extremely recent events).  This just added to the sense that this wasn’t an author, itching to tell stories important to her and eager to attempt a serious hand at a different writing form, but rather someone who decided to slap together a book for reasons not entirely clear (or maybe clear, but not meaningful enough) to me.

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