Subtitled Based on a True Story.
Jill Soloway, who wrote this book, was one of the writers for Six Feet Under, and I strongly suspect the book's release was timed to coincide with the final episodes of SFU. I cannot be the only fan who, still reeling from the loss of one of my favorite shows, read about the book's release and said, "I have to have that." Didn't hurt that one of my favorite Funny Ladies on the Internet, Salon's Heather Havrilesky, gave the book a rave review, gushing, "Tiny Ladies in Shiny Pants may be easy to write off as nothing more than a fun, goofy read, but it's really more than that. I can't help considering a woman who's this honest and this funny as nothing short of revolutionary."
The day she read that review, your heroine immediately hopped on her bike and pedaled to her favorite bookstore, shelled out a pretty penny for a brand-new hardback book, then struck out for home, only to get her bike wheel stuck in a trolley track and take a nasty spill. I suppose that's a story for another time.
Suffice it to say, after the random former-roommate encounter, impromptu first aid session and long walk home, I was still psyched to pick up the book (which, I am happy to report, has a very shiny cover) and join the revolution.
Was my world rocked? Have I even filled out the application in the back for Feather Crest (Soloway's proposed all-female commune, also referred to as Lesbo Island)? Well, no.
Will I clamor to buy Jill Soloway a drink if our paths ever cross? Yes. Yes I will. I won't even take no for an answer. If this sounds creepy to you, you haven't read and marked the passage wherein Soloway names "the man who I would want to take me to the prom if there were a high school called Humorous Essayists North." It's in the chapter where Soloway talks about her obsession with celebrity (in refrence to her writing career, and her history of stalking superstars), and confesses that she e-mails people to thank them for referencing her on the web, thereby increasing her Google factor. Now you know why I'm writing this. I want an e-mail from a fellow starfucker.
So what's in this book for you, dear reader? Well, maybe you were a Six Feet Under fan and you cringed with recognition at Claire's awkward teenage and collegiate sexuality, or at Brenda's artful fuckup-ery. Maybe you've read Laurie Notaro's essays or Pam Houston's short stories and laughed and loved them, but wished the authors had been a little bit sharper, a little more political, a little more unapologetically feminist. Or maybe you just wished they had used the word "fuck" a lot more often. Maybe you're just pissed off about everything, ever, and overdue for lunch with a close, foul-mouthed, funny female friend, and all the ones you've got are miles away. If any (or, if you're lucky like me, all) of these things happen to be true for you as they were for me when I picked this book up, it's just what the doctor ordered. (Note: I suppose boys might enjoy reading this book as well, but I'm on vacation from reading you fellas' minds right now, so I'm not even going to guess what y'all might get out of it. Suckers.)
Some of Soloway's essays are long; some are short. There are parts of the book that seemed to be organized thematically, and chronologically, and parts where that goes to hell completely. The first several chapters, for instance, are about sex. They're about the female orgasm (and why Soloway got a C on the only school project she actually cared about -- asking why so many women have a hard time getting off). They're about what she calls "the porno-ification of America," or rather, what happens after years of wishing women were allowed to talk about sex as if they actually liked and wanted it: "Just when I've sewn up my metaphorical clitoridectomy argument, I find my arguments are passe. Jenna Jameson and Pamela Anderson are on the bestseller list. Ex-ballerina Toni Bentley's Surrender, documenting two years of nothing but anal sex, is called 'of note' and 'possibly brilliant.'" There's a chapter about Soloway's first sexual experience, and how she can identify with Monica Lewinsky, Chandra Levy and Kobe Bryant's accuser. Cut straight from that to Soloway's amusing Costa Rica travelogue, or to "Found My Way in LA," an essay about why people who want to dis LA can eat a bowl of dicks: "This is just Los Angeles and it's in another color than most cities. You just have to put on your sunglasses so you can see the colors."
Some of the essays feel very stream-of-conscious, immediate, or self-contained; others are part of something larger, and reference each other. What I'm saying is that structurally, the book leaves something to be desired, because I'm a complete asshole about that sort of thing. Come to think of it, this review isn't shaping up all that well structurally, either, so I should really get over myself.
I should be saying that this isn't the kind of book where structure matters. What matters is that while Soloway busts out some brilliant insights and some completely baffling ones too, she also throws coffee-spitting one-liners like this one: "Boy, I think a lot, don't I? No wonder everything's so hard for me. 'Jill, you think too much' has been said on many occasion. I really don't like when people say that, mainly because it's always a man, and it usually means 'Shut up and start suckin'.'" There are days when that kind of talk is just what the doctor ordered. Hopefully, the next time that day comes for you, you'll have a copy of Tiny Ladies in Shiny Pants handy.