5+5: Samantha Irby. Best-Listed Essayist. Sass Savant. Reluctant Cat Lady.
Before reading Samantha Irby’s answers to our Q+A, we knew only that we all wanted desperately to hang out with her (editor’s note: this feeling has since reached exceedingly uncool heights). The ingenious essayist penned one of our favorite reads of 2017, We Are Never Meeting in Real Life, and has us drooling for the updated edition of her first book of essays, MEATY, that drops on May 1st. This woman. She kills us. Which might lead you to assume we’d be fully prepared to die cackling when reviewing the final product of her 5+5. Think again! We’re unlikely to recover from her awesomeness anytime soon, and are fanning our faces over what is definitely the funniest 5+5 to date.
New York Times bestselling author, bitches gotta eat blogger, canning skeptic, and executor of an addictively acerbic sense of humor, Irby doesn’t temper her tremendous talent with things like decorum… and honestly, the world is better for it. We can say this for sure: her take on 20x200 art was so refreshing, wry, and utterly idiosyncratic that we couldn’t cut her print picks list down to five. Do yourself a favor and read it all the way through. YOU'RE WELCOME. – Team 20x200
5 Perfect Picks
1) Display of home-canned food, a 20x200 Vintage Edition
My wife is a canner, and if I'm being straight up I had no idea this was even a thing people did until I met her. Listen, I love an artisanal pickle or an interesting slaw but there is no circumstance under which I would ever be motivated to make one of my own. Isn't that what the store is for? And, full disclosure, I haven't yet been struck down by botulism from a jar of her blueberry-lime jam, BUT THAT DOESN'T MEAN I COULDN'T.
2) Why You Shouldn't Live in New York by William Powhida
Don't tell anybody cool, but: I secretly hate New York CIty. I know you're not supposed to admit to that because cultural-and-culinary-capital-of-the-country blah blah blah but it's dirty and everyone is mean and I get it! Because I would be a bitch too if I paid $3000 a month to live in an efficiency and my neighborhood smelled like garbage! I am from Chicago and I know I'm really letting my Midwest hang all the way out here but UGH GROSS. Also the pizza sucks!
3) Untitled #6 by Jessica Bruah
Beverly is sick of her family's shit. Every single thankless day she cleans toothpaste spittle off the mirrors, she folds their skidmarked underpants, she tidies up their Xbox cords and every single day they reward her efforts by leaving half-eaten Hot Pockets wedged between the sofa cushions and refusing to rinse their beard stubble down the sink. They barely looked up from the glow of their various devices as she told them she was going to "run a few errands," grunting in response as she warned them to be on their best behavior. Beverly checks her bag to make sure she's got some mad money and her nicest outfits for when she starts over. Just before backing out of the driveway she sheds a solitary tear for her old life, then she strikes the match.
4) Time by Helena Wurzel
I love the idea of looking into someone else's apartment. To see where they put their stuff, and what kind of sheets they buy and whether or not they keep their computer charging when it's not in use and what magazines they actually read vs the ones they want people to think they read. I love this intimacy: the hot water bottle, the kitty on the bed, the New Balance kicked off in the corner. It feels both like we know a lot about this woman, but also nothing at all.
5) Why Can't You Just Be Nice by Trey Speegle
Is this a theme? Maybe I'm feeling extra-sensitive lately and working through some buried emotional issues here? Anyway, I like cats and I like flowers and in our current sociopolitical climate I feel like everyone can use all the "nice" they can get.
BONUS (because Samantha's hot takes on 20x200 art give us liiiiiife...)
6) Osiris Mountain by Hollis Brown Thornton
I'm 37 and currently going through a BIG NOSTALGIA MOMENT and I basically straight up gasped at this distillation of my forlorn youth. I threw a small-to-medium tantrum at the Blockbuster Music in downtown Evanston when my mom said that she wouldn't purchase Dr. Dre's "The Chronic" for me because it had a parental advisory sticker and I remember actively wishing harm upon Tipper Gore in that moment? My life was full of 90 minute Maxell tapes and so many episodes of Ricki Lake and My So Called Life recorded over each other on battered VHS tapes and this painting makes me want to crawl through a portal to 1995 and never come out.
7) Torus Cutaway AC75-1086-1 5725, a 20x200 Space Edition
I'm not a person who can speak confidently about art, and especially not about art like this, where it looks like something I know and recognize but if forced to explain what I'm looking at I'm stammer, "Uhh, umm, it's a city? Or a neighborhood? In a tube? Or possibly a tunnel?!" I slept through every astronomy and basic physics class I ever took, so we're just gonna have to leave it at that: a space-tunnel tube city.
5 Q's + 5 A's
1) What's your favorite museum?
The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.
2) What's your most coveted coffee table book?
Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic
3) Do you prefer a single statement piece or a salon wall?
I have a salon wall over my desk! I'm too broke to have one big piece so instead I like to fill up a wall with little ones.
4) You've got $5m to spend on one piece of art. What would it be?
Roy Lichtenstein's M-Maybe.
5) The cover of your essay collection is everything. Is that your cat? Why is it wet? Don't you know cats don't like water? Please tell all.
My current cats are both dumb and not photogenic, and would never sit still long enough to be photographed. I feel like that gross, screaming wet kitten is the perfect embodiment of who I am inside: slimy, disgusting, and kind of pointy. Like, that is my face every time I'm confronted by something I hate, which is almost every waking minute of every day.
The 411 on Samantha Irby
Samantha Irby is the author of the essays collections Meaty, and New York Times bestseller We Are Never Meeting in Real Life. She writes the blog bitches gotta eat. and lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan.