Samantha Irby: a public reading celebrating the re-release of Meaty

Kalamazoo, Michigan is a liberal college town. It’s produced great writers such as Darrin Doyle, Jaimy Gordon, Bonnie Jo Campbell, and Elizabeth Crane. The city’s independent book store, The Bookbug, hosted Samantha Irby to read from her re-released book, Meaty, and answer audience questions. The writer, who is originally from Chicago, now lives in Kalamazoo because she met a woman on Twitter, got married, and moved there to live with her wife.

Irby claims she’s “sweating her way across America” for this book tour. Because she mentioned a few times how uncomfortable she is with photos of her that pop up on the internet, I didn’t take any out of respect for her implied dissent. Irby switched which essay she wanted to read to the audience on the fly once she noticed a child in the audience because “it is only proper that a child learn about anal sex from their mother,” not from her. The author preferred to sit during her reading, and she had a big comfy chair. She is there to work and promote her book, why shouldn’t she be as comfortable as the audience? I hadn’t thought about requesting comfort like this until I read about it in an essay by Roxane Gay.

With some writers, you can tell when they switch to Reading Mode. It’s like they have a rehearsed voice for a specific story and you are listening to an audiobook as rendered from the practiced memory of the writer. In Irby’s case, she writes with her own voice, so she reads from her own voice, which was as refreshing as it was hilarious and authentic.

Here’s what I learned from the Q & A:

Surprisingly, Irby never promoted her blog, Bitches Gotta Eat. Her friends would sometimes read it, and it eventually got a lot of followers. She originally started her blog to impress a guy, but that didn’t work out.

Irby wasn’t worried about her future or current employment when she started her blog (on which she over-shares) because if they don’t like what she has to say, that job isn’t for her.

People think she’s Roxane Gay even though their writing is nothing alike. Nor do they look alike.

Meaty is being optioned for a TV show. Irby gets frustrated collaborating because most of the people telling her what to do are her age or younger, but she’s the type of person to not fight for her opinion. She said she felt this way even when she worked with Roxane Gay on an essay collection that’s forthcoming.

She worked in an animal hospital for 14 years, but claims she is really lazy and has to keep writing because she’s so lazy.

IMG_20180712_105217173Her lawyer said she can write about anyone and use their real name in her essays because it’s her experience, too. The only catch is no outing someone on something that’s obviously a secret, such as having a disease, for example.

The child in the audience did asked Irby a couple of questions about becoming a writer that are common, such as how does one become a writer. Irby’s response: that she just fell in to it, that the child should in no way emulate her, and that she is too lazy to do anything else.

Check out my review of Meaty! I’ll be reading and reviewing We Are Never Meeting in Real Life later this summer.

we are never meeting in real life

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15 comments

  1. I’m actually starting to change my mind about Meaty. Purely because Samantha Irby sounds super interesting and I do want to get to know more of her. 🙂

    Roxane Gay is on my radar – I really want to read her Hunger. Knowing that she collaborated with Irby makes me even more intrigued. So many great books to yet explore. 🙂

    This sounds like a wonderful event Melanie, thanks for sharing it with us.

  2. I have to pile on the comment about authors putting on their reader voice. As someone with experience with voiceover recording and radio, I pay a lot of attention to this. There is surely much to respect of a writer whose work has gone through a great deal of polishing and whose reading is so carefully practiced. On the other hand, Irby’s reading feels so real and authentic. It’s refreshing to see someone without their guard up and their filters on who still has so many great stories to tell.

  3. I had just noticed talk of her books on “What Red Read” which landed both of her books on my TBR, but taken in combination with your experience of her reading, now I want to rush off to the library pronto. (Turns out there are some holds ahead of me, but not many!)

  4. I’m glad you’re going to be reviewing her other book, too!
    I like that Irby was careful about what she read in front of a child. Do you think the whole interview was influenced by the child in the audience? I’m curious to know if she’s as forthcoming in front of people as she is in her books.

    • Well, noooooo, she did say some really personal things with the kid there. And then the kid asked questions during the Q&A (obviously prompted by the mom and super not cute, in my opinion, because we have to listen to a toddler mumble words very slowly). Questions like “How did you become a writer?” which doesn’t really make a ton of sense. Irby just kept saying to the kid, “Whatever you do, don’t do it like me.”

  5. I never considered how close South Bend is to Kalamazoo. That’s a fun road trip! I hope that when you were there you did some other fun things.

    Um. Irby is confused with Gay? That must feel weird. On sooooo many levels.

    Haha– I like how she shared her’s lawyer’s advice. Did this come prompted from someone asking a question? I never considered that I couldn’t use real names. O_o This is one of my reasons I’m not an author.

    Meaty is optioned for a TV show. I just… how does one turn a collection of essays into a TV show? #DoesntWatchTV

    • I think they get confused simply because they’re both larger black women. However, they don’t look or write alike at all. Also, Irby pointed out (I’m paraphrasing) that Gay seems to think she gets the last say on everything because she’s super famous. Irby was like, “lol, Roxane.”

    • I love author readings. There are authors I’ve seen at this bookstore in Kalamazoo that the Notre Dame creative writing program would never bring to campus because they’re not “literary” enough. But hello, they’re still successful writers! And they appear on NPR and interview with prominent magazines, etc. They say something about our culture.

  6. I’ve never heard of Samantha Irby! She sounds like my type of gal though.
    “Irby switched which essay she wanted to read to the audience on the fly once she noticed a child in the audience because ‘it is only proper that a child learn about anal sex from their mother,’ not from her.”
    I am dying over here! I laughed out loud so abruptly at this, that I scared my daughter sitting next to me on the couch lol
    You mentioned that she collaborated with Roxanne Gay? Was it only for one essay? or a collection?

    • I *think* they worked as editors in a collection of Me Too essays, but I’m not 100% on that. They’re so different that I have a hard time seeing them work together. Now, if Samantha Irby and Nicole Byer got together, I would just f-ing diiiiie.

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