Quietly Hostile / Samantha Irby / Penguin Random House, May 16, 2023 – $17 (paperback)

An unfiltered honesty defines Samantha Irby’s Quietly Hostile. A collection of seventeen, personal essays, the book offers a cacophonous blend of uproarious humor and intimate slice-of-life scenes through a straight-talking, comic persona that is endlessly entertaining. Irby leaves no stone unturned, exploring everything from the mundane to the absurd – she gushes about Dave Matthew’s greatest hits; she examines the eroticism of nun pornography; she thinks about whales while high; she relays her sexual trysts (most memorably, the one involving a golden shower) in gratuitous detail.

Irby’s self-deprecation is especially a strength, constituting the charm of her essays. In one riotous moment, she details her frequent, multiple-times-a-day, and often humiliating bouts of explosive diarrhea. So constant are her scatological accidents, coupled with the fact that they happen at various locations, that she feels compelled to pen an advice column on how exactly to mask and minimize the accompanying mortification. Her refreshing immunity to embarrassment, in chronicling these awkward but human experiences, endears rather than repels readers.

Some of her essays, however, are hit-or-miss. Irby has a preoccupation with list writing, which can be, at times, tiresome. In her essay about Sex & the City, she drones on and on about the changes she would make to the series if a reboot was guaranteed. Though self-indulgent, these moments of sheer listing are by no means uninteresting – just that their entertainment is highly dependent upon readers’ knowledge of contemporary culture and media. Had I been an ardent enthusiast of Sex & and the City, no doubt my opinion would be different. Nevertheless, she makes up for the occasional tedium with a lacerating wit that permeates her essays through and through. Her voice is consistent, sardonic, and lively, and Irby’s book is a compulsive read.

–Andrew Hu