Fun Fearless Female – Lena Dunham Channels Legendary Cosmo Editor Helen Gurley Brown at BookCon 2014 by Jami Kelmenson
By 9:30 am at the first annual BookCon (formerly known as the last day of Book Expo America – BEA, the only day open to the public in addition to the publishing trade) I was done. Not because of the excessive (but behaved) crowds. Not because of the commute from anywhere in NYC that is not the Javits Center – to the Javits Center. And not because of the drinks I had with my author friends following the Tina Fey/Jason Bateman kickoff event celebrating the book-to-movie, This is Where I Leave You, the previous evening.
I was done because nothing could top what I saw and heard (and almost touched!) at Saturday’s Adult Book & Author Breakfast featuring new memoirs by Alan Cumming, Martin Short and….sigh of sighs, my girl now and forever, Ms. Lena Dunham. I love Lena in her HBO series “Girls” but now I love her even more because of her forthcoming collection of personal essays, Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned”.
Based on the book’s intro she read to the crowd at this morning’s breakfast, this girl has learned a lot. And despite the fact that I had already graduated college when she was born (stop doing the math!) I can learn a lot from this “girl.” And we thought Carrie Bradshaw was the disciple of Helen Gurley Brown (HGB). Forget it; Lena Dunham has skipped over Carrie Bradshaw altogether to land on her own two wobbly cankles to be “the voice of her generation”.
As funny as Lena is on her show, and was at the breakfast, the introductory words of her forthcoming memoir reveal much sadness and self-loathing. Okay, all writers have a degree of self-loathing to one extent or another, don’t we? The difference is, most of us try to keep that part of ourselves hidden, while my new best friend Lena makes peace with her demons while making a living, and more importantly, making us all feel better about the fact that we’re not perfect.
The first line of Lena’s (I call her Lena because I feel like she’s my bud) is: “I am 20 years old. And I hate myself.”
Okay, as far as first liners go, that one makes me want to read on.
She went on to suggest that looking back on it now, most of HGB’s advice in her then groundbreaking 1985 manifesto, Having it All – which glorifies pleasing yourself in order to please a man as the secret to happily ever after – was “bananas.” But what Lena got from it, which led to her being “lucky enough to have the desire to write,” is that every misstep you make in life is worth it if it eventually leads you to your clarity.
Lena’s writing is funny, honest, introspective and fearless. And her stage presence is just as warm, welcoming and respectful to her fans as we would expect. She stayed after the breakfast to sign book posters (the book won’t be released until September) playing to the paparazzi and chatting it up with us, while simultaneously apologizing to her handlers that she wasn’t ready to leave the stage yet.
HGB would be proud. And even if she wouldn’t, Lena wouldn’t care. That’s why she’s the voice of her own generation. And mine too.
Read more about Jami’s adventures at BookCon, including her sneak peek of the book-to-movie This is Where I Leave You, starring Tina Fey and Jason Bateman!
Jami Kelmenson is a freelance writer and blogger living and loving in New York City. She is currently seeking representation for her first novel, Crossing Paths. See more ShelfPleasure posts from Jami, including her roving reporter coverage at BookExpo America (BEA) 2013, and read of her ongoing tales of travel, life, love and the pursuit of getting published in NYC at her blog, www.jamikellywriter.tumblr.com.
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