Samantha Irby’s third essay collection “Wow, No Thank You.” offers comic relief for all her readers, not just middle-aged women who assert their awkward hipness. Not every book can make you laugh out loud, but her book does it easily, and with a self-deprecating flow that still reveals Irby as accepting the flow of her life outside the city in a Midwestern suburb with her wife and children. If you are a fan of “Bitches Gotta Eat”—the blog that started it all here in Chicago, or her two previous books, “Meaty” and “We Are Never Meeting in Real Life,” then you will not be disappointed. Other than the fact that Irby’s prose will make you laugh out loud, the compelling arc of Irby maturing, for better or for worse, has grown with each book.
In “wow, no thank you.,” Irby shares an inner dialogue that can remind us of ourselves overanalyzing and being hypercritical of things that no one else notices except us. In doing so, the readers see her take a compliment about her eyeglasses or a dinner invitation as a complex interaction that requires bathing, wardrobe considerations, dietary dilemmas, footwear and the ever-present quandary of being hip in your forties.
By the time Irby seems settled into this age and her home life, she faces one of the biggest obstacles that many creatives face. What happens when you have to engage with success? She writes about her experience writing in Los Angeles for the Hulu series “Shrill” starring Aidy Bryant, and in particular, writing the episode “Pool” which focuses on a glorious pool party for plus-size women. Irby gives us a behind-the-scenes look of how a plush writers’ office in Los Angeles can be discomfiting for a writer who works in a modest Midwestern home and definitely has expressed her own insecurities with money.
Irby concludes the book with “An Extremely Specific Guide to Publishing a Book,” one of the longer essays. Although it’s not really an FAQ-style piece that you might see on a writer’s website, it’s much better. Irby digs into what initially fueled her writing, how she has grown and what she has discovered about herself in the process. How can that not be a powerful way to end a book where an author has poked fun at themselves? This collection makes an evident revelation that there’s a point to poking fun when you can stand a little stronger after the punchline.
“wow, no thank you.”
By Samantha Irby
Vintage, 319 pages
Newcity Lit Editor Tara Betts is the author of “Break the Habit” and “Arc & Hue.” Her interviews and features have appeared in publications such as Hello Giggles, Mosaic Magazine, NYLON, The Source, Sixty Inches from Center, and Poetry magazine. She also hosts author chats at the Seminary Co-Op bookstores in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood.