With all the forgiveness and compliments she gets from her
editor, Hannah Horvath must be a damn good essayist. In episode 1 of season 3 of GIRLS, which
premiered last Sunday, David announces he’s thrilled by Hannah's work and is
going to publish the first chapter of her e-book on nerve.com.
It’s not totally surprising: Hannah has a great voice. She is shrewd, witty, and sometimes chooses to do things “for the story” — as Jessa suggested when encouraging her to sleep with her boss. And as her mother observed, Hannah “does what she wants when she wants to do it, and she has fun. And then she thinks about that fun and she learns from that fun.” Hannah’s a life writer.
But we don’t know how she actually writes. We’ve had a taste of her talent and subject matter in a few instances. In episode 9 of season 1, she refers to an essay she wrote about “Phil the Hoarder,” a guy she once dated. She then hurriedly writes a new essay about death to read aloud. We know what Hannah wrote about Marnie’s relationship with Charlie. We know that she wanted to “write the fuck out of” her assignment about a night of cocaine snortage. And when Hannah was mid-breakdown at the end of season 2, we saw the first sentence of an essay: “A friendship between college girls is grander and more dramatic than any romance…”
Tantalizing as these tales may be, we’re never going to get to read Hannah Horvath’s essays (though someone made a nice stab at an imitation on nerve.com). But you should check out these self-aware, wry female essayists and their work; their observations of modern life are funny, humble, and bold:
Meghan Daum, My Misspent Youth
Daum's use of irony and self-degradation is right in line with Hannah's style. Daum tackles many aspects of the contemporary experience, including living in close proximity to New York hipsters, struggling for intimacy with others, and the quest for authenticity — very consistent.with Hannah's crises.
Sarah Vowell, The Partly Cloudy Patriot
Vowell and Horvath are alike in their anxious, caring voices and their tendencies to go a little bit overboard: Vowell says, "Going too far and caring too much about a subject is the best way to make friends that I know."
Sloane Crosley, How Did You Get This Number
Like Horvath, Crosley recounts her wild and wacky experiences with precision and confidence in their absurdity. This essay collection is brilliantly funny, and Crosley's voice is unique and unmatched.
Hilary Winston, My Boyfriend Wrote A Book About Me: And Other Stories I Shouldn’t Share with Acquaintances, Coworkers, Taxi Drivers, Assistants, Job Interviewers, Bikini Waxers, and Ex/Current/Future Boyfriends But Have
The title pretty much speaks for itself — Winston is honest and hilarious, and she's willing to bare all the details of her dating history. She's got a peer in Hannah.
And in the way of novels, these authors and works address some of the same themes that Hannah grapples with:
Curtis Sittenfield, Prep
Siitenfield's insightful coming-of-age novel about the painful learning process that is adolescence has all the sexual candor and loathability that we've come to associate with Hannah.
Meg Wolitzer, The Interestings
The intricacies of female friendships are a huge deal to Hannah — I quoth: “I’m not interested in anything they [her friends] have to say! That’s not the point of friendship." In The Interestings, Wolitzer taps into the jealousy, competition, but simultaneous total devotion that is intrinsic to our closest gal-pal relationships.
Adelle Waldman, The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.
A self-absorbed New York writer is the subject of Waldman's novel — and TWIST: it's a guy! His love interest is actually also a writer, whose name is Hannah, who can be unconfident, so the parallels are uncanny.
Just remember: Though the two may seem similar, Lena Dunham is not Hannah Horvath. So never mistake Dunham’s book, which is due to be published this year, with Horvath’s e-book. Just don’t. But you can check out the reading list that Dunham and Judy Blume recommended.