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Lena Dunham and the Wicker Man

Is it just me, or is the bitter mocking of Lena Dunham’s book proposal, which led to a $3.5 million deal with Random House, completely atrocious and sickening? Gawker, a celebrity news website I normally enjoy, led the charge against Dunham by posting a leaked copy of the proposal on its site and then tearing it apart, line by line. Here are some examples, according to an article on

Gawker quotes Dunham’s proposal thusly: “I’ve never kept a diary, [because] if a girl writes in her diary and no one’s there to read it did she really write at all?”

Gawker responds: “The quoted sentence demonstrates that Dunham is incapable of conceiving a rationale for writing that doesn’t serve the goal of drawing attention to herself.”

Dunham writes: “I went to my first Women’s Action Coalition meeting at age three.”

Gawker responds: “The quoted sentence is indicative of a nauseating and cloying posture of precociousness that permeates the entire proposal.”

Jesus Christ, are they serious? Unable to do anything that doesn’t draw attention to herself? Nauseating and cloying precociousness? Is Gawker completely unfamiliar with Dunham’s brand of humor and the kind of topics she routinely addresses?

I’ve seen these same sentiments echoed around the Web, and it sickens me. Who cares that she got $3.5 million for her book? Good for her! If you think she got that money based on a thrown-together, slapdash proposal, you’re seriously mistaken. Dunham is a hot commodity right now, thanks to her popular HBO series Girls. The proposal was a pure formality, a piece of paper to show the higher ups at the publishing companies, nothing more. She could have written “Fuck you, pay me” on a cocktail napkin and there would have been a bidding war for her book.

Of course, digging deeper, it’s pretty obvious this animosity isn’t just about the amount of money she was paid. First, it’s because she’s a woman. Let’s not kid ourselves. Random House paying $3.5 million for a memoir by, say, Bradley Cooper would hardly have resulted in this kind of backlash, regardless of whatever nonsense he scrawled in his proposal. Second, it’s Dunham’s age. She’s still young, not even out of her twenties yet, so there’s a sour-grapes sentiment that she hasn’t “earned” this kind of money or attention. To which I say, fuck you, go create a hugely popular HBO series yourself and then we can talk about who’s earned what, thank you very much.

Not that anything I say matters. A lot of people just enjoy watching celebrities fall out of favor. Every once in a while, they need someone to put inside their Wicker Man. My fellow writers are often the worst for this. They scream and holler about $3.5 million deals being given to celebrities while they still toil away. Well, guess what? No matter what level of success you reach, celebrities are always going to get bigger deals than you. It’s part of the industry, whether we like it or not. Their platforms are just that much bigger than ours. Does celebrity guarantee sales? Of course not. But your books aren’t guaranteed sales either. So stop being babies and deal with it.

One response to “Lena Dunham and the Wicker Man”

  1. Simon Strantzas says:

    The silliness about writers complaining about celeb paydays is the mistaken premise that if these celeb books didn’t exist, all these sales would go toward “real” books (whatever that means), as though the market is desperate for anything to read, and doesn’t care if it’s Joyce or Kardasian. It’s bull. If all the celeb books vanished tomorrow, sales of “your” book wouldn’t increase, just sales of celeb books would drop. Different audiences.

    Anyway, there’s no such an animal as “paying your dues”. You get what you get when you get it. Deserve don’t enter into it.

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