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CV Book Club with Samantha Irby

Given that this Summer is looking a bit different than we imagined, we thought we'd pass the time (at home) with a good book amongst great friends.

Enter the Le Book Club, where you can join Clare for some Summer reading. She’ll share a new title each month—read along and join the group discussion on Zoom! Plus, we’ve partnered up with the iconic Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon. Get your copy of Clare’s monthly book at powells.com and get 20% off with code CLAREV.

We present to you Vol. 1: Wow, No Thank You., a new rip-roaring essay collection from the smart, edgy, hilarious, unabashedly raunchy & best-selling Samantha Irby. Here, Clare interviews the author about humor, writing, and her best stay-at-home finds.

Do you write everyday?
I try to write every weekday (emphasis on TRY) because it feels good to stretch the brain muscle I guess? (please forgive me for using a fitness analogy for this extremely unathletic thing!) I have a (mostly) daily newsletter that I send out to people, but it’s really lowkey and easy and doesn’t feel like a huge commitment while also allowing me to feel like I have accomplished at least one miniscule task every day.

What is the process like?
When I am writing for myself, for my blog or my newsletter or just playing around, I don’t put any pressure on myself at all, I just sit at my messy desk or in my cozy chair whenever the mood strikes and write until I don’t want to anymore. When I have an assignment, and yes, my books feel like assignments, I always think I’m going to be really organized and plan ahead and get all my pencils sharpened and clear my desk and get really focused so I can do good work but that literally never happens. All of my writing happens in the middle of the night when there’s a deadline looming and my place is a mess and my computer is about to die and I can’t stop doom scrolling through the same old 2am tweets. I’m writing these answers while everyone in the house has already been in bed for three hours! Before quarantine I would sometimes go to this little office space above a coffee shop that I rent and pretend to work during normal hours, but I would just read articles and order lunch salads and watch clips on YouTube and go home in the evening mad at myself for being such a loser. I wrote this entire book in panicked fits and starts, never sitting down with the laptop before 10pm, and as much as it pains me to say it this is absolutely my process. I wish I could be a “pot of coffee on a beautifully sunlit antique desk” writer but if I’m being real I am a “Diet Coke in the middle of the night with my broken computer balanced on a lap pillow” writer. It’s sad!

Which essay was the most difficult for you to write in this book and why?
Overall this is probably the easiest book of the three I’ve written because there’s absolutely zero death and deep emotional trauma, BUT: the essay that probably vexed me the most was the one I wrote about working on the television adaption of Shrill, because Lindy West and I are super close friends and we lived together in LA while we worked on the show and it was such an incredible experience for me and I wanted to both honor all of those things (and do them justice) while also making fun of what a weird nervous wreck I was the entire time? And it’s always awkward when I write about other people, especially when writing about a person who is still my friend and in my life, which is why I don’t do it very often. Even the most glowing and flattering words can be misconstrued or land in a way I don’t intend, so I wanted to get it right and not piss anybody off or make anyone look bad, and that was fucking stressful.

Who are some writers you think are funny?
I love Lindy and Issa Rae and Paul Beatty and Tina Fey and R Eric Thomas and Mindy Kaling and Fran Leibowitz and David Sedaris and Allie Brosch and Lisa Hanawalt and Marian Keyes and Michael Arceneaux and Jenny Lawson and and and...

Best book (that’s not your own) you’ve read in a while?
Okay because I am a pig person who is allergic to following directions I am going to name two, both out this spring/summer: The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett and Luster by Raven Leilani. Brit’s first book, The Mothers, is incredible??? I read it the day it came out, just sat on the busted couch in the sunroom and read it from beginning to end, then immediately read it again and bought copies for all of my friends. So I knew the new one was gonna be good, but I have been pleasantly surprised by just how good it is? And Luster is incredible, it’s dark and sexy and funny and fresh and I cannot wait for people to read it. It’s too bad that we live in hell because there are so many good books right now and I’m afraid we won’t get to read them all before the asteroid comes and wipes us all out.

Best thing about being out of your 30s?
I feel like I’ve been an old lady in an old broken down body for a long time, and finally now that my friends are all 40+ everyone can relate to my old rickety knees and sore lower back and I don’t feel like an alien from the planet Arthritica anymore. I also love the cultural latitude I’m afforded; I don’t feel this all-consuming pressure to know the hippest things anymore, and I am grateful for that. Like, I want to know what shows everyone is watching and what song everyone is listening to but I don’t feel the desperation to know it first anymore, and that’s a goddamn RELIEF.

Current favorite body or beauty products?
I HAVE TOO MANY. Okay so, I just resigned myself to the fact that I have oily skin and started using oily skin products even though they are much less sexy than their dewy skin counterparts, and my favorite face combination is Coalface soap from Lush followed by Sunday Riley UFO oil and with Glossier Invisible Shield sunscreen on top. The Coalface, like, sucks all the gross oil up? And then the UFO is a dry oil that has salicylic acid to clear out my pores, and every beauty website on the planet says you need to use a sunscreen and this one is like a this gel that smells good doesn’t make me look ashy. It’s hard to motivate myself to do anything further to my face because honestly who is going to see it? I don’t leave my house! But I do love a neon blush situation so I’ll use a little matte red lipstick (MAC Ruby Woo is a perennial fave, as is Velvet Ribbon by Lisa Eldridge) on my cheeks and nose bridge to liven my shit up in case I have to wave at the mail carrier through the screen door or something. The one thing I do consistently is spritz on a little perfume. It’s such a mood boost, even though the phrase “mood boost” makes me want to puke. I wear Basil and Neroli by Jo Malone, and if I knew how to accurately describe a scent I would, but I don’t, so just take my word for it that it smells good as hell.

Best thing about having step children?
They tell me what’s cool now and what’s not cool anymore so I don’t embarrass myself in front of young people on the internet.

Keeping fashionable in quarantine times or not at all?
Oh I don’t know how to be fashionable in regular times, so quarantine has been a step down from that and that’s lowkey terrifying. I do shower every day, I love taking showers, and that propels me into getting dressed, so I have been wearing soft pants and a real shirt most of the time which makes me feel like a functioning adult!

What are you looking for in a bag?
I like a large bag that holds a lot of stuff. I’m a STUFF person. I don’t ever want to risk being away from my house and not having something I need. Probably because I don’t trust that strangers will help me? The idea of being caught somewhere without having a thing I need and no way to get it makes me extremely anxious. So I like a big bag that can hold my essentials, you know: a spare charging battery, a book in case I get bored or need to look busy, a couple pairs of earbuds (what if one pair shorts out or I didn’t notice one of the cats chewed it up???) so I don’t have to hear anyone else’s talking or chewing sounds, a case with prescription sunglasses in it, my giant old lady wallet that is big enough to hold a checkbook (yeah yeah, I know, “WHAT ARE CHECKS”), a couple of those peanut butter squeeze packets, my phone, my keys, my extra keys, 137 lip balms, a phone book, a bottle of white wine, and a road atlas. Basically I need to carry a suitcase.

Favorite song of the summer/current fav song?
I am always listening to a million songs, but right now I have the song “The Eye” by Waxahatchee on repeat. Her new album is fucking incredible!!!! I’m also listening to a lot of Tierra Whack, Mitski, Darondo, Connan Mockasin, Vagabon, and Stevie Wonder’s Fulfillingness’ First Finale.

Does your wife drink too much kombucha?
Not as much as she used to!! Do you think it’s because I shamed her????? I mean, this morning she put a bunch of kale and nuts and seeds and kefir and shit into the Vitamix and drank the thick green sludge it produced out of a mason jar so she’s still absolutely disgusting, does that count?

Do you have a funny story about something that has happened during quarantine?
This isn’t funny as much as it is evidence that my lady and I don’t talk to each other enough, but she had this idea to start ordering flowers from this local flower farm, trying to our best to help the economy while also having beautiful tulips in the background of my Zoom calls and shit, but we never talked to each other about it and so I would order flowers and she would order flowers too and the poor flower farmer would show up at our house with buckets full of flowers and we thought she was just being nice and giving us extra but it turns out we were placing double orders like morons. We truly were running out of surfaces on which to place the arrangements and finally the florist was yelling outside the front door like “YOU GUYS SHOULD COORDINATE YOUR DELIVERIES” and I died from shame. Anyway, we still order double because we don’t want the florist to think we’re cheap, please remember this story any time you think of me as put together or smart.

Are you happy or disappointed that your book was released during a quarantine (so all promotion has been digital and haven’t had to travel)?
Okay so, horrifying pandemic notwithstanding, not having to tour and being able to talk to people from the cleanest and nicest-looking corner of my dining room has been an absolute dream? As much as I love to meet people, and I really do despite all evidence to the contrary, I hate meeting people on no sleep in clothes I’ve already sweat through in some other part of the country, stressing out because I don’t know where my hotel is and how long it’ll take to get to the airport the next day and will there be something on the room service menu I can eat and am I even allowed to order room service anyway, all while worrying that people are going to post dozens of greasy, shiny unflattering photos of my many chins on Insta. So I am sad I didn’t get to hug people in Denver and perspire all over Nashville but I’m a little bit grateful, too. Honestly it was nice to know I could talk to people at home in their pajamas. I hate structured pants!

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