As soon as I heard the title of this book – Wow, No Thank You – I knew I had to read it, whatever it was. I didn’t know anything about Samantha Irby, I’d never read her blog, but I could tell she and I would get along. That feeling was only reinforced by the dedication – “This book is dedicated to Wellbutrin” – which gave me the first of many literal lols.
So, here’s what I learned from Wow, No Thank You: Irby is 40, and not entirely comfortable with that. She describes herself as a “cheese fry-eating slightly damp Midwest person… with neck pain and no cartilage in [her] knees… who still hides past due bills under her pillow”. If that doesn’t sound like the kind of person you immediately want to befriend, perhaps Wow, No Thank You isn’t for you.
It’s a collection of essays about… stuff. Life. Ridiculous jobs. Trying to make friends as an adult. The lost art of making a mix-tape. Living in a place where most people don’t share your politics. Getting your period and bleeding all over the sheets of your Airbnb. Trying to remember why you ever found nightclubs fun. There’s even a whole essay of “Sure, sex is fun, but have you ever…” jokes (the format might mystify you if you’re not on Twitter, but it’s hilarious).
Hung Up! is one of my particular favourites from this collection, a brilliant defence of time spent on our phones. Irby presents the remarkable thesis that our phones are better than real life, if only for the fact that you can block people who bug you.
Are You Familiar With My Work? is surely the most memorable essay in this collection, if only for the intensity of the butt-clenching second-hand embarrassment. I laughed so hard my dog refused to stay on the couch with me as I read on.
Country Crock is another essay worthy of note, for different reasons. It’s a surprisingly moving piece about being a fat, black, queer woman (married to a white woman, no less) in Trump’s rural heartland. It’s a different vibe to the other essays in Wow, No Thank You, but it seems to fit right in and demonstrates Irby has range beyond poo jokes.
It would seem that Irby’s schtick is to be confrontationally honest about the kinds of things most of us would rather die than talk about. Sure, plenty of people find her essays “gross” or “too much information”, but for those of us who find her honesty refreshing, she’s a marvel. She unearths hilarious particulars of her life and manages to make them relatable. Who among us hasn’t had a hypercritical inner monologue running as we navigate the choppy waters of making a new friend? Desperately searched for a bathroom? Procrastinated as the pile of work we Really Should Be Doing grew higher and higher?
Maybe the context of having read Irby’s earlier essay collections (Meaty and We Are Never Meeting In Real Life) or her blog might’ve made Wow, No Thank You even better, but I enjoyed it thoroughly coming in cold. It’s not going to be for everyone, but it sure is for me.
My favourite Amazon reviews of Wow, No Thank You:
- “The rabbit on the cover is nice, the content not so much.” – Brittany
- “my wife and I were very excited to read “Wow, No Thank You” and that is effectively our reaction to it.” – R. Foshee
June 28, 2022 at 8:44 AM
I started with ‘We Are Never Meeting In Real Life’, but didn’t like it as much as this. It was a bit too poop jokey. In ‘Wow, No Thank You’, the poop is intelligently balanced.
July 9, 2022 at 9:59 AM
“The poop is intelligently balanced” 😂😂😂😂😂 the best literary criticism I’ve read this week!!