Little Weirds is an almost uncomfortably intimate, albeit abstract, look into Jenny Slate’s mind.
It’s hard to find the right way to describe a book like Jenny Slate’s Little Weirds. Those familiar with the bullet points of her bio courtesy of her recent standup special (divorce, chronic horniness, wild insecurity, ghosts, etc.) will be able to read between the lines of these poetically rendered essays and musings. Others will likely find themselves lost in the words themselves and Slate’s affinity for lush imagery set against almost child-like prose. Still others will find themselves thinking, “What the fuck did I just read and why?”
It’s this latter category of reader who really has no place in Slate’s world and that’s okay; they can take their poopy attitude elsewhere whilst the rest of us have a sleepover and talk about our formative years with a mix of affection, embarrassment, longing for simpler times and frustration at where we might now find ourselves. In other words, those who adhere to more of a hopeless romantic persona than jaded realist will find much to love (and more than a little of themselves) in Little Weirds.
Slate is a gifted writer with a clear love of language and the myriad ways in which it can be bent and shaped into new and interesting forms. Because of this, many of the pieces in Little Weirds come off as almost exercises avant garde or experimental fiction, each heavily steeped in the language and love of a poet’s soul. Some are rendered maddeningly so, often to the detriment of the piece, but nonetheless represent Slate at what seems to be her most vulnerably honest as a writer. It’s in these moments where her “love me as I am or leave me be” attitude shines through, making her ups and downs in love all the more understandable.
This was no doubt a conscious decision on her part as it often paints her as being difficult to relate to due to her exceptionally high expectations in terms of what she wants in return from a lover or a partner. Almost comically so, many of her yearnings come off as beyond hopelessly romantic to the point of cloying-yet-precious.
In other words, Slate is well aware that she can be a difficult person to be around and isn’t afraid (anymore) of putting that front and center. In this, Little Weirds almost reads as a form of catharsis-via-journaling as she seems to jot down any and every fleeting thought that passes through her head. This lends the collection an almost stream-of-consciousness quality at times, furthering adding to the dreamlike nature of her musings. This can also lead to a rather challenging read at points as the reader is forced to stick with Slate regardless of how esoteric or grating (in the twee-est sense of the word) she chooses to be.
Because of this, much of Little Weirds can often come across as perhaps a bit too insular for all but the most devoted readers. However, this approach helps further illustrate Slate’s past difficulties in finding the right person to relate to on a deeper, more intimate level, highlighting and magnifying her eccentricities and foibles to unavoidable proportions.
Those already enamored of Slate’s singular talent and voice will find new and challenging levels within her personality to reckon with – much as she has seemed to have to face within herself in recent years – making Little Weirds an almost uncomfortably intimate, albeit abstract, look into her mind. Everybody else is probably best served sticking with her comedic work on film and in the realm of children’s entertainment.