Who Wants To Pay Lena Dunham $1 Million For A Book?
Great news, all of you who like reading anything but good books by actual writers*: Lena Dunham is soliciting publishing companies for the rights to her first book, with the floor for bids set at $1 million, or, in the literary fiction metric system, more than all real writers will ever make combined.
I’ve never seen Tiny Furniture or Girls, and for all I know Lena Dunham is a verbal treasure. But her proposed manuscript is described as “a collection of frank, autobiographical essays about sex, friendship, work, eating disorders, etc.”—in other words the most predictable, least imaginative book Lena Dunham could possibly have written. Neither Tiny Furniture nor Girls sounds too far from Dunham’s autobiography to begin with, meaning this will be the third medium in which Dunham has gone to her own well for material. Such is the spirit of the age, I guess, though don’t come crying to me when we trade the last vestige of a legitimate national literature for one more collection of expensive solipsism.
But here’s what really gets me:
What’s most striking about the proposal is that the essays are collectively presented as an advice book: the (presumably tentative) title is Not That Kind of Girl: Advice by Lena Dunham. In the intro, Dunham is self-deprecating about the idea that she has any wisdom to share, but says that if the book can help anyone avoid some of the mistakes she’s made it will be worth it. She cites Helen Gurley Brown’s Having It All as a kind of inspiration, even though she thinks much of what Brown specifically advised is totally nuts.
What’s to follow that intro, according to the proposal, are candid accounts of losing her virginity, trying to eat well (detailed diet journal included), obsessing about death, and so on, along with tips about how to stay focused on work, how not to ruin a potential relationship, and what have you. One section will recount various ways in which older men continue to be condescending and sexist, and will describe “the most awkward date ever with an older director.” Another will describe travel to various places, including Israel and Japan.
While those of us at Brow Beat are big Dunham fans, the writer-director obviously has her detractors, and no doubt those who like to dismiss her work won’t look fondly upon an advice book. Which makes the decision to present her experience in this way seem all the gutsier, to borrow a word Dunham herself uses.
So to sum up: Lena Dunham is selling a book, in a gimmicky and somewhat undemanding genre, in which she freely admits she has little offer, and will be paid minimum $1,000,000 for it. And that’s “gutsy.”
On the bright side, maybe Penguin will sign her and then sue her.
* Don’t look around the room like it’s not you. It’s you.