Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Why Not Me? How to Succeed by Really Trying

I have always liked Mindy Kaling. She was ridiculous as Kelly Kapoor on The Office (and wrote some fantastic episodes of that show), she has been hilarious as Dr. Mindy Lahiri on her show The Mindy Project, and her 2011 book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) was marvelously entertaining. But upon reading her latest book, Why Not Me?, I have now discovered that I don't just like Mindy Kaling. I love her.

A mere 50 pages into this book, Kaling has already discussed her Hollywood beauty secrets (hair extensions, a padded bra, and a DP who knows how to light you perfectly), the bemusing world of Dartmouth sororities, the perks and pitfalls of (minor) fame, and included a random photo of Colin Firth. Alongside these funny and sarcastic stories, however, is a devastatingly poignant essay about weddings, and why women agree to be bridesmaids even when everyone knows it is the worst thing ever. Her views on friendship, being a woman in Hollywood, and wanting to be liked and then not giving a damn are incredibly moving. And remember, we're only 50 pages into this book. 

As you keep reading, you will learn more about Mindy's transition from nervous comedy writer to bonafide successful showrunner. She shares her tips on how to gain confidence (throwing in a guest essay from her mentor, Greg Daniels), offers up a look into her punishing schedule, shares some juicy behind-the-scenes stories from her show, and gives us tales of heartbreak and romance. In "One of the President's Men," we get a mesmerizing story of her relationship with a White House staffer, a profound story that also includes loads of high-profile name-dropping. This is quickly followed by "A Perfect Courtship in My Alternate Life," an essay that should immediately be turned into a full-length novel and/or movie as it follows a series of email and text exchanges between the alternate version of Mindy if she had become a high school Latin teacher and the grumpy widowed US History teacher who is destined to be her Mr. Darcy. That juxtaposition of real-life and fantasy romance is what makes Mindy Kaling such an incredible writer. She knows real life isn't perfect, which is why she excels at making it so wonderful in fiction. 

I won't discuss any further details of Why Not Me? because reading it is an unalloyed pleasure that everyone should experience for themselves. These essays will make you laugh, cry, and ponder all the different ways in which it is difficult and wonderful to be a woman, a celebrity, and a role model. They offer up wisdom and silliness in equal measure, and even though the book is only around 220 pages long, it contains a world of insight and advice that will serve you in good stead for the rest of your life. 

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