Review: We Are Never Meeting in Real Life

Essayist Samantha Irby is the sort of person you feel like you’ve known your entire life, even though the title of her second collection of essays, “We are Never Meeting in Real Life,” makes it clear you have not.

Irby’s writing, which also appears on her wildly popular blog, “bitches gotta eat,” is filled with the sort of honesty that comes during pajama conversations over Doritos with the closest of friends: vivid descriptions of bodily functions gone wrong; fantastic diatribes about the finer points of sex and cable television; and break your heart open truth about poverty, anxiety and growing up essentially raising your own parents.

Irby’s mother had multiple sclerosis and was largely immobile, and her father was a crippling alcoholic who was “just totally broken.” In one essay titled “happy birthday,” Irby explains how when she was 15 her father moved her mother out of a nursing home and into his apartment so he could receive her benefit checks. “The three of us were such a goddamned nightmare,” she writes.

But in a later essay about traveling to Nashville to spread her father’s ashes, Irby reflects on “whether I could accept a room service order without a bra on. Like, what if it’s more than an exchange of plates or whatever and I have to awkwardly tuck my tits into my armpit to sign a receipt?” This is Irby’s genius: her essays are never entirely serious or entirely lighthearted. Rather they move like we do when trying to make sense of something great: vacillating between raw emotion and wild humor.

Being funny takes a certain kind of courage. But to be this open and real about the grit of life is only for the fearless. That is Samantha Irby, and we should be proud to go along for the ride.