All Things Aside by Iliza Shlesinger
Written by Ashley Kelmore, Posted in Reviews
Fans of humorous essays and memoirs. Fans of Shlesinger.
In a nutshell:
Stand up comedian Shlesinger shares observations about life. Sometimes very funny, often insightful, sometimes weirdly ignorant.
“But that question, ‘What am I doing this for?,’ is one I constantly ask myself.”
“In my mind, there’s still time.”
Why I chose it:
I’ve found Shlesinger’s stand-up specials on Netflix to be funny at times, and the book looked like something I’d probably enjoy. And for the most part, I did.
Hmmmm. There is so much about this book that I enjoyed. As someone who is only a couple of years older than Shlesinger, I could relate to a lot of her nostalgia and pop culture references. Some of the essays are just that – collections of things she likes or doesn’t, and it’s fun. It works. I enjoyed those parts.
Interestingly – and possibly ironically – the part that grated on me were when she was so focused on preemptively being defensive about her opinions. Obviously Shlesinger is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea – no one is EVERYONE’s cup of tea – but she’s clearly terrified of ‘being canceled.’ The thing is, most of her opinions are pretty chill if you’re someone who cares about other humans. Like, she wants women to have rights. She doesn’t express racist opinions. She supports trans folks. But she repeatedly emphasizes that she thinks people are too quick to judge and too quick to cancel and … maybe? But are they? Louise CK is on tour. Johnny Depp walked in Rhianna’s label’s fashion show. Like, most (white) people who get canceled are doing JUST fine.
But one area where she seems to really dig in her heels is ableism. She just cannot seem to understand the problem with using outdated terms like crazy, lame, or insane. And look, I definitely still have trouble finding good replacements, as I’ve spent much of my life using those words. But I acknowledge that they are problematic and I try to be better. But she doesn’t even seem to accept that there is an issue here. In fact, early on, she shares that a sensitivity reader (which, come on, that’s awesome that she had her book reviewed by a sensitivity reader) suggested that her use of the word insane was flagged. And instead of thinking ‘hey, you know what, that term is loaded and has been applied to both people with mental health issues and people who are a little different so maybe I can use my creativity and come up with another way to say this,’ she says “lest someone who identifies as insane read this book and take umbrage.” No! That’s not what we’re saying … ugh. She’s so close and yet really misses the point here. And annoyingly she follows this with “Pick a real hill to die on, folks, not every anthill you trip over.” Mental health an the treatment of disabled people is not an anthill.
No author, and certainly no comedian who chooses to put themselves out there is going to get everything right. And I think she does get a lot right. I just hope when she rereads her book in a few years, she recognizes that she’s grown and moved past this need to dig her heels in about language like that.
Recommend to a Friend / Keep / Donate it / Toss it: