Lena Dunham’s $1 Million Book Proposal

Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog
Oct. 1 2012 7:39 PM

Lena Dunham’s $1 Million Book Proposal

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Lena Dunham

Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images

If you read Brow Beat regularly, you know we’re big fans of Lena Dunham, from her little-seen short films to her widely discussed HBO series Girls. Today, someone in the publishing industry forwarded us an email from Dunham’s literary representation soliciting bids for Dunham’s first book, the first of which are apparently due by the end of the day tomorrow. A detailed proposal for the book, with some sample chapters, was included, and the email mentioned that the literary agency had set “an in-house floor of $1 Million” for U.S. rights to the book.

If you’ve read Dunham’s essays in The New Yorker or Rookie, you’ll have a general idea of what the book will be: a collection of frank, autobiographical essays about sex, friendship, work, eating disorders, etc. What’s most striking about the proposal is that the essays are collectively presented as an advice book: the (presumably tentative) title is Not That Kind of Girl: Advice by Lena Dunham. In the intro, Dunham is self-deprecating about the idea that she has any wisdom to share, but says that if the book can help anyone avoid some of the mistakes she’s made it will be worth it. She cites Helen Gurley Brown’s Having It All as a kind of inspiration, even though she thinks much of what Brown specifically advised is totally nuts.

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What’s to follow that intro, according to the proposal, are candid accounts of losing her virginity, trying to eat well (detailed diet journal included), obsessing about death, and so on, along with tips about how to stay focused on work, how not to ruin a potential relationship, and what have you. One section will recount various ways in which older men continue to be condescending and sexist, and will describe “the most awkward date ever with an older director.” Another will describe travel to various places, including Israel and Japan.

While those of us at Brow Beat are big Dunham fans, the writer-director obviously has her detractors, and no doubt those who like to dismiss her work won’t look fondly upon an advice book. Which makes the decision to present her experience in this way seem all the gutsier, to borrow a word Dunham herself uses. “There is nothing gutsier to me than a person announcing that their story is one that deserves to be told,” she says, “especially if that person is a woman.”

David Haglund is a senior editor at Slate. He runs Brow Beat, Slate's culture blog.