I wanted to like this book more than I did, because a person whose taste I agree with gave it to me as a gift. If you know and like Mindy Kaling’s work, and you want an inside view into what sort of person she is in real life, this book will probably appeal to you. I think that reading this book without having watched The Office is like reading “Wishful Drinking” without having seen Star Wars. I haven’t seen any episodes of The Office, so I have to take it on faith that Kaling’s work is worth reading about.
Kaling seems like an interesting enough person, though unlike most memoir-writers, she didn’t have a debilitating childhood. She’s a hardworking daughter, a loyal friend, and seemingly a healthy and socially well-adjusted person. In short, she’s too boring to provide the gut-wrenching envy, shadenfreude and frissions of love/hate that most celebrity biographical works inspire.
The lifelong passion Kaling has had for comedy made it feel like her success was inevitable, which makes me happy as it plays into my secret girlish fantasies in which hard work and dilligence are eventually rewarded. Alas, I’m not really into comedy as much as she is. At one point, Kaling lists off comedians and scenes she thinks are the all time greats, and it’s like listening to a musician talk about their favorite bands or a writer talk about their favorite books. I always think I should recognize more, but they’re mostly either too obscure or not ones I’d peg as being on the top ten on anyone’s list. For example, she praises Will Farrell as being a comic genius, but I mostly find him loathesome and off-putting rather than funny. She name-drops Steve Carrell, and I do know who he is, but I’ve avoided every movie I’ve seen him in a trailer for, because that sort of comedy doesn’t make me laugh, it just makes me want to leave the room out of secondhand embarrassment.
Mostly, this book felt like an essay in which a likeable and fairly charming person told you all about herself. She has some odd ideas. For example, she talks about her “Irish Exits” where she leaves a party without saying goodbye to everyone. She’s so OCD about this that she’ll sometimes pretend she’s just going to the bathroom when she’s actually leaving. Another time, she left her jacket there just so she could leave without saying goodbye. Is this a New York thing? It seemed like much ado about nothing. If you want to leave, just leave. If you want to say goodbye, say goodbye.
I do feel like this book went on 20-30% longer than ideal. Past a certain point, she seemed to be searching for material. For example, she describes the sort of things that are included in gift bags that you get when you go to a red-carpet media event. It didn’t occur to me that one got gift bags when one went to a red-carpet media event, so I never wondered what was in them, nor is it shocking and/or interesting when the items aren’t worth having.
This leads me to my main criticism about the book; it felt like too many of the jokes were inside jokes. Kaling talks about the entertainment intdustry, which I’m not involved in, and comedy, which I often don’t watch, and The Office, which I have never seen. I suspect that people who are either involved in this industry, fans of the Office, or fans of Mindy’s work will get much more out of this than I did.