It's Hard Not to Hate You: A Memoir - Valerie Frankel

From the author of Thin Is the New Happy comes a hilarious memoir about embracing your Inner Hater. “The hate in you has got to come out.” The day her doctor gave her this advice, Valerie Frankel realized the biggest source of pressure in her life was maintaining an unflappable easygoing persona.  So she decides to go on a mission of emotional honesty, vowing to let herself feel and express all the toxic emotions she’d long suppressed or denied: jealousy, rage, greed, envy, impatience, regret.  She reveals her personal History of Hate, from mean girls in junior high to selfish boyfriends in her twenties and old professional rivals.  Hate stomps through her life, too, with snobby neighbors, rude cell phone talkers, scary doctors, and helicopter moms. Regarding her husband, she asks, “How Do I Hate You? Let Me Count The Ways.” (FYI: There are three.)  Can it be that toxic emotions are actually good for you? That the positive thinkers, aka The Secret crowd, have it backward? It’s Hard Not To Hate You explores the concept that there are no wrong emotions—only wrong ways of dealing with them.

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I was drawn to this book largely because of the snarky title, not even connecting that it was written by the same woman who wrote I Take This Man (I bought these books on separate occasions). I also didn't realize that it was a memoir when I first bought it. The cover pictured above is different than the copy I have, but both covers seem to scream YA funny novel to me. But nope, this is author Frankel's memoir on her struggles with weight and overall body image as well as her battle with rampant pessimism and anger management issues. She's not physically violent with people, but she does seem to seethe a lot. While not the book I thought I was getting, I figured what the heck, let's check it out anyway. I'm always curious on the back stories of writers. 

 

Ohhh boy, I read a fair number of memoirs these days and this is perhaps one of the least satisfying I've experienced this year. Fiction or non-fiction, I was prepared to get some good laughs and life lessons tossed my way. Instead I just ended up, in turn, pitying or being turned off by Frankel as a person. She talks about diagnosing herself "after seeing so many episodes of House". There are lengthy passages about how Frankel feels called to write but can't understand why her books consistently tend to rank at three stars or under, noting "A large number of my readers, alas, were not as tickled by my novels as I was." She even comments on one of her best friends -- a best friend! -- telling her she's delusional, "like how you think your novels are the funniest books published in the last 100 years." Is it bad that I was nodding along with the friend's comment? Frankel's style of humor, at least from the novel I read as well as what she writes here, strikes me as the forced, trying-too-hard variety. I love a well-crafted pun but I'm starting to think it's an under-appreciated art form. She also makes the joke "I could see why Michael Jackson loved Propofol" (after being prescribed it herself during a hospital visit) which I found to be in poor taste. 

 

Frankel also seems to like to veer into TMI territory a good bit. The first chapter is rife with descriptions of bodily fluids, pubic hair and a play by play of her colonoscopy and she doesn't let up a whole lot for the rest of the book.

 

The constant woe-is-me vein running throughout the bad jokes and crass stories just wore me out. Her novels are fair (but largely forgettable) puff pieces for me but this memoir was a total dud.