Book Review: Little Weirds by Jenny Slate (2019)

Tuesday, November 26th, 2019

This book is emotional murder.

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free e-ARC for review through Edelweiss.)

I was born in the stacks in the Columbia University Library. I was born in shin-guards on a soccer field on a chilly little Saturday morning in the 1980s and I was too scared to even feel the sting of the ball on the inside of my shoe. I was born during tennis. I was born as a backyard swimming pool and my twin sister is an orange Popsicle and my mother is a bowl of pickles and my father is a hamburger.

(“I Was Born: The List”)

I think, Well, I am so sensitive and I am very fragile but so is everything else, and living with a dangerous amount of sensitivity is sort of what I have to do sometimes, and it is so very much better than living with no gusto at all. And I’d rather live with a tender heart, because that is the key to feeling the beat of all of the other hearts.

(“Kinship”)

There was a time before Patriarchy.

We have a better origin story and it is not widely spoken about but it is the truth.

(“The Code of Hammurabi”)

Y’all. I can’t even tell you how much I wanted to review Little Weirds using nothing but Mona-Lisa Saperstein gifs. Alas, Jenny Slate is nothing like Jean Ralphio’s sister from the same mister, and most of said gifs are totes wrong for this review. But I have to get them out of my system, so. Let’s just dive right in, shall we?

(Note to self: It’s about time for your annual Parks & Rec rewatch. Your emotions are in serious need of fortification.)

Prior to discovering Little Weirds on Edelweiss (at which point I legit let out a little squeal and did a happy happy butt dance on my office chair), my knowledge about actor/comedian Jenny Slate could be summed up thusly: 1) she portrayed Mona-Lisa Saperstein with brilliance and aplomb on one of my all-time favorite sitcoms, Parks & Recreation (for reals, I even dedicated a whole VeganMoFo to it!); 2) she dated everyone’s favorite Chris (Evans, duh!); she’s Jewish; and 4) she’s been at the receiving end of some really gross antisemitism, on account of nos 1-3, i.e., being a Jewish lady who played a Jewish lady and also dated literal Captain America while Jewish, and also because our country is a dumpster fire of white nationalism and toxic masculinity.

I started to type “But I digress…,” and then it hit me that this isn’t a digression at all; Slate does touch upon some of these issues, however tangentially, in Little Weirds. But mostly the subject matter is so very much stranger, ethereal, and curious than this. In a word, weird.

As the synopsis promises, inside this book you will find: The smell of honeysuckle; heartbreak; a French-kissing rabbit; a haunted house; Death; a vagina singing sad old songs; young geraniums in an ancient castle; Birth; a dog who appears in dreams as a spiritual guide; divorce; electromagnetic energy fields; emotional horniness; and the ghost of a sea captain.

You can also look forward to: gossip; an old dog who flits in and out of each essay like a specter, or a faithful friend; a tragic accident involving a deer and a tennis court; emotional emptiness; metaphors galore; whimsy and sorrow; a cage match between optimism and cynicism; aliens; alienation; letters; prophecies, or maybe wishes; being mansplained to death; terminology from the 1920s (“peepers”! I love it!); and a pit (oh, how I want for this to be a throwback to Parks & Rec!).

Basically, I cannot think of a book with a more perfectly fitting title than Little Weirds. This quirky collection of essays is simply enchanting. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and – before you even know what’s happening – you’ll find yourself delving into some deep and scary, long-hidden and even liberating places. Some of these essays are prescient AF, and sneakily so. Like, ending this collection with “I Died: Bronze Tree,” followed by “Dog Paw,” is emotional murder.

I died and I have to move on soon, but I will always be so glad for the life I had with you. The fact is that it is incredibly hard to RIP and I’m just not sure I can get it done. Because what will I be now? I know that we will have new life with new forms and that we won’t be able to love each other like we did the last time. Maybe I am going to be a banana and you will be a car. It just won’t work. I know that. And I’m not one to beg for the impossible, especially as a banana, but I can’t seem to stop reacting to the enormity of the final end of us, sweetheart.

I feel personally attacked.

Little Weirds is the kind of book best devoured in small bites. You’ll find yourself offering the book a permanent, cozy home by your bedside; lovingly bookmarking certain chapters, so that you can return to them after an especially excruciating day, or perhaps those nights when you foresee a challenging week ahead. Kind of like the literary equivalent of keeping Parks & Rec (and The Office, Schitt’s Creek, and The Good Place) on your Netflix list even though you’ve watched them a dozen times by now.

In short, you should give Jenny Slate all your money please.

I did it! I worked a Mona-Lisa gif in organically!

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

Carbs & Rec: Bonus Materials!

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

Everyone knows this song it’s amazing.
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OMG, I can’t believe that VeganMoFo has come and gone ALREADY! I had so much fun this year, I almost don’t want it to be over. But I’m out of posts and on the verge of an epic blogging hangover, so maybe it’s for the best. For what it’s worth, though, I still have so many Parks & Rec themed food ideas that I think I could continue Carbs & Rec for another season. 2015, maybe? (Also, thanks to my fellow mofos for all the excellent suggestions. I can’t believe I forgot about Mulligan’s Steakhouse!!!)

I bookmarked so many amazing posts this past month that I just have to share. In this roundup you’ll see some of my favorite themes; super-awesome posts; and recipes that I’ve added to my to-do list, with subsets involving butternut squash and apples, because I have a ton of each. (But apples especially. Did I mention that I have five apples trees? I know right!) Also: a few gifs and videos that didn’t make it into the previous posts. (Some are so out there that I just couldn’t find them any other home, yo!)

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This year I made the official roundup twice (for pizza both times: french fry calzones and the deep dish mac & cheese pizza; thanks, Jojo!), and my tumblogs fuck yeah vegan pizza and fuck yeah vegan ice cream (twice!) got shout-outs as well. I also won a copy of Vegan Tacos from Zsu’s Vegan Pantry (yay!).

Speaking of which, Vegan Heritage Press is currently hosting a pretty awesome taco photo contest – and don’t forget to enter VeganMoFo’s downright epic Beyond Meat giveaway, which ends tomorrow night. (Pro tip: the quiz isn’t nearly as impossible as it seems at first glance.)

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Without further ado, I give to you the Carbs & Rec bloopers, outtakes, and bonus materials.

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Carbs & Rec: Champion’s Peanut Butter Oatmeal Birthday Biscuits

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

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If you were to ask me to name my all-time favorite Parks & Rec character, no matter how minor or short-lived, I would hem and haw and slowly but surely work my way through the merits of Ron (meat!) vs. Leslie (feminist ambition!) vs. Ben (calzones and nerd pride!) vs. Andy (fun and goofy) vs. April (the misanthrope with a heart of gold) vs. Donna (chill as fuck) vs. Dave Sanderson (adorable!) vs. Jean-Ralphio (not! HE IS THE WORST!) before settling on the obvious choice, the character who stole my heart without uttering a single line: Champion, April and Andy’s rescue dog.

Ben: That is a three legged dog.
Andy: Yeah, his name is Champion. Because he is the world dog champion.
Ben: I’m sorry. I have to ask this, but how many legs did that dog have when you found him?
Andy: Three! That’s what makes him the best. He can do more with three legs than most dogs can do with four.
April: Except for digging. He’s really bad at digging.
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I’m with April: cats and dogs are infinitely preferable to people.

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Carbs & Rec: Long-Ass Rice with Creamy Lemon-Zucchini Sauce

Monday, September 29th, 2014

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I promised myself I wouldn’t make any pasta dishes this VeganMoFo. Well, besides the Chicken Cacciatore. And that crazy deep dish mac & cheese pizza. Oh, and also the five-cheese macaroni and cheese I made for Mac & Cheese Monday a few weeks before that. YOU GET THE IDEA. I pretty much live on the stuff the rest of the year, and trying new things is part of the point of my themes. A minor one but still.

AND THEN.

A copy of Sharon Gannon’s (then-upcoming; now recently available) Simple Recipes for Joy unexpectedly appeared in my mailbox.

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(Thanks, Avery Books!)

And, in a fortuitous twist, I found a ton of recipes (okay, six) that call for pounds of zucchini (LITERALLY), which was really pretty great because at the time my garden was spitting out zukes faster than I could pick them.

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Carbs & Rec: Real Men Eat Quiche Lorraine

Sunday, September 28th, 2014

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Originally I was going to whip up a batch of Maple Bacon Doughnuts for the very last Swanson Sunday of VeganMoFo 2014. Aaaaand then Shane made his annual pilgrimage to Las Vegas and returned with several dozen vegan donuts from Ronald’s. I didn’t think my pants would forgive me if I made even more baked goods, so. Real Men Eat Quiche Lorraine it is!

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Carbs & Rec: I MADE CREPES!!!

Saturday, September 27th, 2014

We are getting down to the wire, Pawnee, and I am pulling out ALL THE STOPS.

(Just wait until you see what I’ve got planned for Tuesday.

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For realsies!)

Today on Carbs & Rec, I attempt to do something I never thought I would-could-should do: make crepes!

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And – spoiler alert – it was not a total disaster. Not a tear was shed nor a crepe destroyed.

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Carbs & Rec: You Just Got JAMMED! Kolaches (and a Jeremy Jamm Gif Dump)

Friday, September 26th, 2014

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You guys. I have a confession to make. I’m kinda sorta in love with Jeremy Jamm. The character, not the person, because that would be gross.

(Also, I may or may not have set the top image to my desktop background. Jump down to the botton of this post for a bigger, badder, Jammier version.)

As one of Pawnee’s council members and a local dentist/businessman, Councilman Jamm represents all that’s wrong with American politics: corruption, bribery, backroom dealing, $$$. He’s racist and sexist (though not as quaintly so as some of the older councilmen). He uses his public position for personal profit. He can frequently be seen trading his votes for favors (such as when Leslie had to promise to buy Invisalign from Dr. Jamm in exchange for his vote in favor of extending the community pool’s hours). He is unequivocally, unabashedly horrible: a petty, self-absorbed man.

And yet. He’s the kind of villain you love to hate. It’s like Robert McDonnell, Lindsey Graham, and Paul Ryan all rolled into one odious, fictional little package. (Emphasis on fictional.)

Remember that time Leslie and Jamm performed a karaoke duet of “Summer Nights,” but with the gender roles reversed? OF COURSE YOU DO!

This is easily one of my all-time favorite moments. Amy Poehler does a mean scumbag Travolta impression. I’m actually kind of pissed that I can’t find a full-length version online. NBC, get on that!

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Carbs & Rec: Moo Pies

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

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If you don’t own a copy of The Best Veggie Burgers on the Planet, you are seriously missing out.

Exhibit A: this Bacon Cheeseburger from the Heartland.

Carbs & Rec - Moo Pies (0004)

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“But where’s the (vegan) bacon and (nondairy) cheese?” you’re probably asking yourself. IT’S BUILT RIGHT INTO THE BURGER.

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I just blew your mind, right.

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Waffle Wednesday: ‘Christmas in September’ Gingerbread Waffles with Butter Rum Sauce

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

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So today is officially Christmas in September as we observe this Waffle Wednesday with a heaping stack o’ Gingerbread Waffles from Vegan Brunch!

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Actually, I write this post from the sweltering heat of July, back when I thought that VeganMoFo would fall in August; and while Christmas in July does sound better, it is what it is. A waffle by another other name is just as sweet. No really! I nearly passed out not ten minutes in to dinner. I don’t even think I made it through the first commercial break of The Americans.

Leslie Knopes what I’m talking ’bout.

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These waffles are true to their name – they taste just like warm, cozy gingerbread, and are so yummy that you could probably eat ’em undecorated with no regrets.

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Carbs & Rec: Salad & Other Disgusting Things

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

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SALAD. If there’s a food more universally reviled in Pawnee, I’d be hard-pressed to name it. (Dog laxative waffles, maybe?) From the manliest of meat-eaters to even those government employees who ought to know better, the cast of Parks & Rec never misses a moment to hate on leafy green meals.

First, we have the usual suspect: Ron Swanson, who refuses to eat the food that his food eats.

Chris: Ron, do you like some salad?
Ron: (giggling) Since I am a rabbit, no I do not.
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Mac & Cheese Monday: Deep Dish Mac & Cheese Pizza

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

You guys, this scene made me so happy – the reference is so random and unexpected, plus PIZZA. And not just any pizza; MAC & CHEESE PIZZA!

Leslie and Ben are officially my people.

Let’s see it again, in gif form:

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Yup, I kinda sorta do.

So there was no doubt that I’d have to make a mac & cheese pizza this mofo.

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Carbs & Rec: ALL the Bacon & Eggs I Have!

Sunday, September 21st, 2014

Update: Ron & I won a MoFie!

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Just give me all the bacon and eggs you have. Wait, wait. I’m worried what you just heard was, “Give me a lot of bacon and eggs.” What I said was, “Give me all the bacon and eggs you have.” Do you understand?
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Ron Swanson is a simple man. He likes pretty, dark-haired women and breakfast food, and frequents strip clubs strictly for the all-you-can-eat buffets. When in doubt, serve him bacon and eggs. Preferably all the bacon and eggs in the house.

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So when Shane and I were brainstorming how to do this quote justice, we came up with two ideas: a) Photoshop a weird collage of all the bacon and eggs I’ve ever made, with a disembodied Swanson head superimposed on top (Shane) or b) actually cook up an oversized platter of bacon and eggs (me).

I was torn, so I did the next best thing: them both!

Exhibit A: The Vegan Bacon & Eggs Poster.

all the bacon and eggs collage (with quote)

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Carbs & Rec: The Highest Honor That Flour Can Achieve

Saturday, September 20th, 2014

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Okay, so Chris Traeger and I have a *slight* difference of opinion here. (PIZZA! PIZZA IS THE HIGHEST HONOR THAT FLOUR CAN ACHIEVE!) But who am I to disagree with the first human being to live 150 years?

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Carbs & Rec: I’m Sorry I Adopted ALL THE ANIMALS! Pancakes

Friday, September 19th, 2014

“How did you sleep? I adopted 32 cats and dogs.
Do you want pancakes? I’m going to make pancakes.”
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Remember that time Bradley Whitford threatened to cut the Parks Department budget, but Leslie inadvertently convinced him to take the money from the animal shelter instead? Then, in a fit of guilt, she adopted all 32 animals – dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, and YES THAT IS A PIG – and offered to make it up to Ben with a pancake breakfast? OF COURSE YOU DO. I know that because, if you’re an animal person, no doubt your parent/spouse/roommate was side-eying you during the entire scene, praying to the great dog above that it didn’t give you Any Ideas. Let’s just say that, for the next week, Shane was afraid to leave the house.

Naturally, and because she is not a heartless monster, Leslie found a way to resolve the situation to everyone’s satisfaction: she convinced her opponent Bobby Newport to fund the animal shelter with just a small portion of his Sweetums fortune. Everyone wins, including the usually indifferent April Ludgate, who finds her true calling: helping the animals of Pawnee.

“I think I may have found a project I’d actually enjoy doing: helping these cats and dogs. They should be rewarded for not being people. I hate people.”
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April throws an adoption fair; one lucky dog gets a new girl (yay!), but on the downside, a woman abandons two cats.

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Carbs & Rec: Chris Traeger’s Tofurky Burger Challenge

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

The tenth episode of season three (“Soulmates”) is one memorable episode in an entire season filled with memorable Parks & Rec episodes. And I’m not referring to Tom’s epic prank on Leslie, from which the show gets its title.

(Remember, he signed up for the same dating service as Leslie and convinced her that their software put them at a 98% match?

Priceless.)

Nope, I’m thinking of Chris Traeger’s Turkey Burger Challenge. Faced with alarming health statistics, Chris vows to put healthier fare on the menus in government buildings – including the one that houses the Parks Department. Ron’s not having any of that, so he challenges Chris to a burger cook-off: Chris’s super-fancy turkey burger against Ron’s all-American, all-male hamburger, hold the exotic trimmings. To the winner goes the menu.

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Waffle Wednesday: Chick’ N’ Waffles Party

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

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It’s Wednesday, y’all! You know what that means!

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So Imma change things up this week with a savory waffle treat. Weirdly enough, I don’t think we’ve ever seen Leslie eat a waffle that wasn’t sweet. Usually – arguably – overly so. (Waffle sundaes, anyone?)

Instead of syrup and whipped cream, this one’s got meat and gravy.

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Carbs & Rec: Nacho Momma’s Preferred Source of Energy

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

Ron: What are you doing, Andy?
Andy: I’m getting healthier snacks for the shoe shine stand.
Chris is a food genius.
Did you know that the food you eat becomes energy? Yeah.
Boom! That’s spaghetti.
Nachos.
A cookie.
April: That’s my husband.
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Did you know that the food you eat becomes energy? IT’S TRUE! Tasty, tasty energy. And at the rate I’m packing it in, I should have scaled Everest several pizzas ago.

Another fun fact: this is one of my favorite Parks & Rec clips. I mean Andy, right. He is so cute, y’all! I’d just never want to date him, because I’ve seen how he lives, and it is not pretty.

So anyway, I just knew that this clip had to have a meal all to itself this Carbs & Rec. But what to choose?!? Spaghetti, cookies, and nachos are all equally yum. (Okay, so maybe I’m partial to cookies, being part Cookie Monster and all. I promise not to play favorites!)

In the end I went with nachos, because they’ve got the coolest Dwyer moves.

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BOOM! Nachos.

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Carbs & Rec: Peruvian Deja Food Pie

Monday, September 15th, 2014

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The latest meal on our Parks & Rec menu is, as you’ve no doubt already surmised, another Tom Haverfood! I’m pretty sure this particular phrase is fan-made as opposed to NBC canon, but that’s okay! If we’ve learned anything this month, it’s that our favorite shows are 1000 times better when enjoyed interactively.

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There’s one recipe in particular that seems like it was made just for this Haverfood: namely, the Peruvian Leftovers Pie from The HappyCow Cookbook. Basically you take your favorite leftovers, sandwich them between two layers of mashed potatoes, top it all off with a tofu cheese garnish, and voilà! – dinner is served. Bonus points for cleaning out the fridge.

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Carbs & Rec: You had me at “Meat Tornado.”

Sunday, September 14th, 2014

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“You had me at Meat Tornado.” If there’s a single quote that’s come to define Ron Swanson, food-wise (and what else is there really?), it would have to be this. Second maybe to “Give me ALL the bacon and eggs you have.” Let’s just say the message boards are going nuts.

Just look at all the Meat Tornado merch and fan art available online!

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Carbs & Rec: Sloppy Adam Sandlers

Saturday, September 13th, 2014

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Today’s featured meal may be a Tom Haverfood, but imma break with protocol and stick to non-Tom gifs for a change. Because HOLY HELL are there a ton of Haverfoods on the menu, and I want to give some of my other favorite characters a little face time. Like April and Jeremy Jamm! Just not in the same frame ’cause I adore April and would never play her like that.

So Adam Sandlers are what Tom calls sandwiches (along with sammies and sandoozles) – and what better sammie to represent Mr. Sandler than (*drumroll please*) SLOPPY JOES?!?

SLOPPY JOE, SLOP, SLOPPY JOE!”
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Yeah, that’s right. You knew the Lunchlady Land jams were coming. (AGAIN.) You know me so well, mofos.

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