Samantha Irby’s Quietly Hostile is a joyful exercise in oversharing.

Quietly Hostile is Samantha Irby’s fourth collection of hilarious, off-the-wall personal essays.

Almost blog-style in its randomness, each chapter takes us on a journey through a variety of Irby’s loves, hates, flights of fancy, reimagined TV episodes, lists of food, embarrassing anecdotes, and misadventures in bodily functions that will give you whiplash as they switch from funny to maudlin to sarcastic to silly.

The essays in this book, like much of Irby’s writing, is told with heavy doses of sincerity and self-deprecation. The stories can’t read as memoir exactly; they are more along the vibe of ‘embarrassment as entertainment’. It could be easy to die of second-hand cringe at some of her stories. But the way she tells them is so funny, with just enough droplets of poignance at specific moments, that by the end of each one you feel like you alone are being let into her confidence and have the privilege of being entertained by this story.

Her blog-style essays jump around topics and anecdotes, so you never quite know what might come up in the next chapter. We learn about her deep love of Dave Matthews Band and the songs of his that she finds the most romantic. One essay is dedicated to food and cooking through a typical (sort of?) week. One chapter is the story of the time she almost died from an allergic reaction. And we also hear about the last normal day, i.e. before COVID shattered everything and rebuilt our notions of ‘normality’.

One of the most interesting chapters is Superfan!!!!!!!, where she talks about what it was like working on episodes of the Sex and the City reboot, And Just Like That… Irby lists her favourite episodes of the original show and how she would rewrite them, which, if you’ve seen any of Sex and the City, is a very fun exercise in rewriting pop culture history to be a bit less insufferable.

This is a funny and enjoyable read, an insight into the mind of someone who is able to turn almost anything into a joke, even things you thought you would never laugh at. Only read if you’re ok with poo jokes, discussions of various bodily ailments and embarrassments, and elderly nun-based lesbian p*rn.
This review was first published on AU Review.

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