Sunday, May 05, 2013

The Office star Mindy Kaling tells it like it is

book review

TV actress, writer, director, and author Mindy Kaling shares zany insight in her book

Author: Mindy Kaling
Book: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)

Mindy Kaling first came to prominence as a staff writer and actor (portraying the character of Kelly Kapoor) on the U.S. version of The Office, and has since spearheaded her own sitcom, The Mindy Project. In between, the American comedian also scribed a book called, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), a collection of essays, anecdotes, and recollections.

Offering an amusing take on her life, work, and other experiences, the book sees the author talk about her childhood, being chubby, getting bullied by a Senegalese kid, her best friends, living in New York, the success of Matt & Ben, her career in television, being a part of The Office, romance, her appearance, and her legacy. Along the way, Mindy comes up with various lists on topics like the exact level of fame she wants, the rights and responsibilities of best friends, the types of women in romantic comedy who are not real, franchises she would like to reboot, and her favourite moments in comedy.

As far as its content goes, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? is noticeably thin. The writer simply does not have enough substance to produce a solid book, and based on the content, doesn't appear to have amassed enough life experience to come up with a full length tome. Some of the lists work, others don't, but when she gets to the point where she has to do things like share narcissistic photos from her Blackberry, you can clearly tell that she has really run out of things to write about. The book is at its most interesting when Mindy is talking about her life and experiences; the unnecessary asides feel distracting and pointless and are not nearly as clever as the writer might have hoped. Perhaps Mindy could have written a more substantial book, had she waited a few more years and had more and better stories to tell her readers.

It also does not help that the text misses a sense of direction and cohesion. The writer meanders through different topics, seemingly at random, without fully detailing most of them. Many ideas are touched upon but not fully explored. As a result, the prose feels unfocused, directionless, and lacking depth; the prose itself isn't a strength either. The tone is fairly engaging, albeit overly snarky, but the style seems closer to that of a blog than a book. It's the kind of writing style where the writer frequently ends sentences with phrases like “or something”, “or anything”, and “or whatever”. The humour is blunt and abrasive, and while Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? is mildly amusing, it rarely goes beyond being just that. For someone whose actual job is as a comedy writer, the chapters offered here aren't as funny or smooth as one would hope; you can easily find funnier and more insightful pieces on a number of blogs online.

Then again, all of that might not be a problem for many readers, because the book appears to be directed towards a certain segment, and simply isn't meant for the rest of us. The content will probably connect more with younger, especially female, readers. It will also give The Office fans a behind-the-scene glimpse of the show. Reading the tome is like spending time with a girly, overly talkative friend who jabbers on about anything that comes to her mind while trying a little too hard to be edgy. The author did not sit down to paint a clear picture of her life but just wanted to offer random nuggets of her experiences and thoughts in a friendly, informal way, and in that she has succeeded.

For the most part, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? reads more like a blog, and not a particularly well-written or interesting one. This isn't intelligent comedy that will blow you away. Sure the book is funny, but varyingly so. While Mindy may have accomplished a lot, she is unable to translate that into the book or make her story very compelling. That is why Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? seems insubstantial, unfocused, and padded, although none of that stops the book from being amusing and fun.

- By Sameen Amer

Instep, The News on Sunday - 5th May, 2013

No comments: