Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
So how do you get a notoriously slow reader to rip through a 260-page book in under a day, in the midst of a busy week planning for a birthday and a party and putting the finishing touches on a mile-long, post-move to-do list?
I guess you write like Lindy West does.
I’ve been distantly following Ms West’s writing work since her early Jezebel days—I watched the rape joke/TV debate thing unfold in real-time—and know she’s a fearless writer and social critic. I know she’s one of the many women who has been vocal about her persistent harassment by online trolls and critics. I know she’s been a powerful voice for acceptance of (and by) women who don’t fit into the narrow band of “acceptable” body types, particularly vocal against fat shaming.
But picking up articles and storified exchanges and round-ups here and there is not the same as absorbing it in a curated, more or less chronological first hand account.
The format here is sort of a memoir, sort of a collection of essays, sort of a cohesive narrative. It works, simply put. It’s compelling and feels complete and rewarding at the end while also having that type of easily digestible, just-one-more chapter vibe of an article collection. Ms West is funny, whip-smart, and persuasive. She’s especially convincing in the sense that most of her persuasiveness is not rooted in the masculine “blind me with your reason” tedium of (purportedly) unassailable logic and facts (not that she shies away from either) but in the much more compelling sense of showcasing her humanity and appealing to the basic decency of people to acknowledge its existence and modifying perspectives accordingly.
Not, of course, that “basic decency” is actually all that basic, as her bevy of online detractors demonstrates on a depressingly regular basis. Still, I like how she is unafraid to take the hits for the causes she believes in, how she asks questions that seem obvious but no one else seems to be asking (such as, “why do we simply accept awful online behavior and targeted harassment as a price of being virtually connected?”), how she uses wit and honesty to combat those who must resort to stupid cruelty.
The end result, then, is a book I couldn’t put down. Didn’t want to put down. It’s maybe not for everyone, but it was certainly for me. I’ll carry this one around with me for a long time and will count myself as a better person because of it.