I can’t review Lindy West’s new memoir Shrill: Notes From a Loud Woman because it would violate at least three different conflicts of interest: We worked together at The Stranger for four years, we’re friends, and I read and offered thoughts on a couple of early drafts. So I know I’m biased, but I do love this book: I think Shrill is funny and honest and heartbreaking and empowering and meaningful. It starts as you always expect Lindy’s writing to, with some jokes and sharp observations, but by the end it’s become something different. Lindy’s writing gets more nuanced and vulnerable and powerful as the book goes along, creating so much more than just a collection of personal essays: It’s a story of evolution and a personal account of growing up, both as an adult and on the Internet as a personality.
Tonight, Wednesday, May 25, Lindy reads at Town Hall, kind of a triumphant homecoming after the first leg of what looks to be a long book tour: She’s debuted the book in Chicago and Brooklyn, but hasn’t yet read to a hometown crowd. In a recent interview for my site, The Seattle Review of Books, I asked Lindy something I’ve been meaning to for a very long time: There was a point at The Stranger when she was becoming a nationally famous feminist cultural critic. In the days before the Internet, that would have been the exact point a writer would have packed up, left Seattle, and moved to New York City, to try to land jobs at high-paying magazines. She may have moved to Los Angeles for a few months in 2011—an experience documented in Shrill—but as her star climbed higher and higher and she wrote regularly for high-profile outlets like The Guardian and Jezebel, it was clear to anyone that she could have moved anywhere in the world. For decades, writers left Seattle regularly to chase fame; why did Lindy stay?
“I just love Seattle so much,” Lindy replied, “and I always have. Both of my parents are from here. There’s something about knowing that when I drive through downtown, I can see my dad walking down the street with his briefcase in 1973.” She said she “had the good fortune to keep getting jobs where they said I could work from wherever, so there’s just no compelling reason to go.” That said, “I know that I’m missing out on things. It’s hard to know what my career would be like if I had moved to New York. I definitely miss out on things like,” and here she screwed up her face with a special kind of disdain, “media cool-kid happy hour, or whatever.”
It’s hard to imagine a more famous version of Lindy West right now; her book is getting rave reviews everywhere and she’s doing interviews with seemingly every media outlet in the English-speaking world. But part of her appeal is that she can be a totally fearless, brash, hilarious warrior on the Internet and in print, and then can come home and be a Seattleite who loves her family and friends and city in a completely earnest, un-New-Yorky way. It’s hard to imagine a Lindy West without Seattle’s influence, and it’s impossible to imagine a Seattle without Lindy West.
Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave., 652-4255, townhallseattle.org. $5. All ages. 7:30 p.m. Wed., May 25.