December 4, 2016

Jennifer Weiner and I have been besties for a long time now, even though she STILL doesn’t know it! So of course I was tha-rilled when I found out about her memoir. Singing voice here: Love-ed it!

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Listen. I am thin. I don’t love Jen because I’m overweight and she’s my champion, though I do love her for championing women, whatever size.

I don’t give a rat’s ass about what snobby old men think about what I read or books that I love. I don’t love Jen because she defends chick lit, though I do love that she has essentially told Jonathan Franzen (and the patronizing likes of him) to suck it, and persistently needles The New York Times, and publishing in general, about equal treatment for women authors.

I don’t watch The Bachelor. I don’t love Jen for her running commentary/tweets about the show, though I do love that she admits watching it both “lovingly and ironically,” and describes it as “glorious and hideous and wonderful and awful and exactly what you want in your reality TV.”

I love Jen because she writes books that I love. And the line does blur here. Because, okay, I’ll admit it, I don’t actually know Jen (ugh, there, I’ve said it). So can I really say I love her, when really, I love her characters and the stories she tells?

Well, I think I can.

Because it’s not just the books. I loooved her blog, love her vlogs and interviews, love how she smiles as she talks like I do.

I love her because she’s hilarious. I love her snark.

I love her because she’s smart. I love her because she is proud of her smarts and her ivy league school, but still calls her alma mater, Princeton, FancyPants U.

I love her because she’s always shared great insights and tips about writing, like she does through Professor McPhee in Hungry Heart.

I love her because she’s warm and loves her siblings and teases her mom and shows off her Nanna. (And I loved finding out in Hungry Heart that they all call her Jenny.) I love her because she adores her daughters and talks about them only when it’s particularly relevant or interesting to, you know, other people.

I once heard the lovely writer Dani Shapiro recount an exchange she overheard between Angela’s Ashes author, Frank McCourt, and a fan. Upon meeting Mr. McCourt, the fan exclaimed, “I feel as if I know you!” His familiar Irish-accented response was, “Ah, darlin’, it’s just a book.”

That response has always felt a little crushing to me, but also very liberating. There is no perfect writing, or reading. I think remembering that frees writers to write our truth as best we can, and readers to embrace what resonates with us without worrying too much about what doesn’t.

So much by and about Jennifer Weiner has always resonated with me, and Hungry Heart, happily, is no exception.

I wonder if this means I can start calling her Jenny?  

LP