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October 10, 2012

Slate: Why Lena Dunham's book is worth $3.5 million

WASHINGTON — When word came down this week that "Girls" creator and "Tiny Furniture" director Lena Dunham had sold a book of essays for more than $3.5 million, I braced myself for a resurgence of the Dunham haters. These are the people who, among other things, argue that Dunham is the beneficiary of nepotism. And what could be a bigger benefit than $3.5 million?

It is a lot of money, and "Girls" is only a modestly rated show: About a million people watched the finale on its air date and in its time slot, though about 4.1 million people watched it after that. By contrast, "2 Broke Girls" pulled in, on average, 11 million viewers per episode in its first season. But instead of judging what cash value the Dunham name realistically ought to have in the marketplace, I'd rather think about her valuable ideas.

Dunham's book is only at the (accepted) proposal stage, but first Slate and then The New York Times obtained copies of that proposal. Among the ideas in it are a chapter devoted to "an account of some radically and hilariously inappropriate ways I have been treated at work/by professionals because of my age and gender." And another promises to advise readers on how to wear "Red lipstick with a sunburn: How to dress for a business meeting and other hard-earned fashion lessons from the size 10 who went to the Met Ball."

These are the kinds of subjects for which there's enormous demand but not much supply. It doesn't help to be told that you should be more aggressive in asking for a raise, in generic lady mag fashion, if the problem is as much that your boss is a sexist as that you're not asking for what you want. I'd rather hear Dunham's embarrassing work stories and what she learned from them than hear the same talking points women have been handed over and over again. And it's not as if most of us can easily relate to Christina Hendricks' experiences getting stylists to send her dresses that work with her cleavage — some of the most-discussed examples of fashion's inhumanity to curvy women of late. Sure, Dunham's been to the Met Ball, but she also looks like she knows her way around a retail outlet and a thrift shop, and she might have real ideas for those of us size 10s who aren't headed to the red carpet.

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  • Why do wolves howl?

    Of all the myths that dog the wolf, none is more widely accepted than the idea that wolves howl at the moon. Images of wolves with their heads upturned, singing at the night sky, are as unquestioned as a goldfish's three-second memory or a dog's color-blindness (both also myths).

    April 18, 2014

  • Smartphone kill switches are coming

    Smartphones need kill switches. It's a relatively easy solution to the pricey (and irritating) problem of smartphone theft. But who would have thought that the big carriers would team up with Apple, Google, Microsoft, Nokia, Samsung and lots of other manufacturers to voluntarily begin adding the technology by July 2015? The cooperative spirit! It makes so much sense!

    April 18, 2014

  • Biggest student loan profits come from grad students

    This week, the Congressional Budget Office projected that the federal government would earn roughly $127 billion from student lending during the next 10 years.

    April 18, 2014

  • Screen shot 2014-04-18 at 4.44.15 PM.png Paint, doodle and sketch: 3 apps for art lovers

    In the absence of a palette of watercolors and a sketchpad, these three apps can fill in as your art supplies of choice.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • touch.jpg Divorce is on the rise, and it's the baby boomers' fault

    A new paper from demographers at the University of Minnesota found that the age-standardized divorce rate has actually risen by an astonishing 40 percent since 1980.

    March 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • barbour021614.jpg No shows escaped death by Craigslist killer

    The young woman who says she was driven by satanic spirts to commit a cross-country murder spree over the last six years says authorities are not taking her claims seriously and that she tried to lured other central Pennslyvania men into her death snare with online companionship ads but they didn't show up.

    March 29, 2014 1 Photo 2 Stories

  • firefighters.jpg VIDEO: Firefighters sing song from 'Frozen' to calm girl stuck in elevator

    Firefighters in Reading, Mass., sing the Disney power ballad known by children everywhere -- "Let It Go" -- to calm a 4-year-old stuck in an elevator.

    March 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • dog-sunglasses.jpg Do animals have a sense of humor?

    Right now, in a high-security research lab at Northwestern University's Falk Center for Molecular Therapeutics, scientists are tickling rats. Their goal? To develop a pharmaceutical-grade happiness pill. But their efforts might also produce some of the best evidence yet that humor isn't something experienced exclusively by human beings.

    March 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • taylor.armerding.jpg Put teens to work by laying off minimum wage rhetoric

    Idle teen workers may be a national problem, but frugal private employers aren't the reason for it. Minimum wage hikes - like the one championed by President Obama - squeeze these marginal jobs out of the economy.
     

    March 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Screen Shot 2014-03-27 at 2.40.34 PM.png VIDEO: Would-be carjacker stymied by stick shift

    A man ordered a mother and her son out of their SUV at gunpoint in an Omaha neighborhood, but was forced to flee on foot, police said, because he didn’t know how to drive a stick shift.

    March 27, 2014 1 Photo

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