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Monday, Apr 22, 2024

The Librarian Is In: "Meaty" by Samantha Irby

What’s easy to recall about this collection of autobiographical essays is that blogger Samantha Irby is frustrated with dating and 21st-century sexual economies and mores; she loves food and drinks, despite her sensitive bowels, given her Crohn’s disease and wavering income; and she has a complicated, self-hating relationship with her body, which is covered in a variety of types of moles. 

In these respects, this author is the voice of my generation: (1) not knowing how to navigate intimacy, (2) feeling petrified and destabilized at a perceived lack of access to “the American Dream” and (3) having ongoing mental health and existential crises as we are increasingly and hyper-aware of the vulnerable, unpredictable, anatomical masses we precariously inhabit are trademark characteristics of being a millennial. 

Ba da bing. Other details that are more easily overlooked are that Irby is an orphan and has been since her teenage years. Her alcoholic father was largely absent from her life and her ailing mother had a debilitating illness that prevented her from parenting, perhaps when Irby needed her most. Some critics would describe this work as “raunchy” given its explicit commentary about sex and details about scatological phenomena, i.e. poop. I’d call it fresh in its aggressive honesty as it holds a steady gaze on experiences we all have, without batting an eye. At one moment,  Irby critically reduces underperforming men to shreds. In another, she laments poverty, shared residences and the labors associated with the pursuit of wellness. The work is an incredibly vulnerable testament to what it means to be a woman in a capitalist and patriarchal society that teaches that a woman’s worth is irrevocably tied to her consumption of products and contingent upon her appeal to men. For more like this, see Irby’s “We Are Never Meeting in Real Life” or “It Looked Different On the Model” by Laurie Notaro, one of librarian Brenda Ellis’ recommendations.