West’s range is wide. Shrill’s early chapters flash with wild, exuberant profanity ... Later, she becomes more sober and personal, writing about her father’s death and her love for her husband. Shrill mixes humour with pathos so effectively that those qualities magnify each other rather than cancelling each other out. West has somehow stayed open and vulnerable in the face of constant attack, abuse that would turn a lot of people into a brittle shell, instead of a warm, capacious and funny writer.
Such labels have a way of making the bearer seem narrow and her tone shrill. West is anything but. She has written a compelling book on behalf of human decency ... Reading her is a full-on sensory experience. The loud blonde is in charge, and the rest of us will go as fast as she likes ... She is sharp and funny and likable, which makes her cool, which makes her not how people imagine mouthy feminists to be, even in this Amy Schumer age ... showcases her optimism about humans, about our ability to talk things through and be better to one another.
Shrill, West’s first book, is a director’s commentary of sorts on her most memorable stories, several of which are reprinted here. The later essays, about her father’s death, are the most ambitious as writing, but the hits hold. My favorite is her work on being fat, the word she prefers. With patience, humor and a wildly generous attitude toward her audience — meeting readers at their point of prejudice so that she may, with little visible effort, shepherd them toward a more humane point of view (it’s worth noting that West is the only writer to have an internet troll publicly apologize to her on national radio) — she reminds us that 'fat people are not having fun on planes. There is no need to make it worse' ... West’s humor, I admit, is not always my style. At times it feels juvenile, irritating — 'a bit much,' as she says. I dislike all caps in print, of which she is fond, because I am NO FUN. Over all, Shrill feels hasty and unfinished, less like a book than the assembled material required to consummate a book deal. But no matter, there is good work here that represents a decade of public service for which she deserves years of back pay. If this is the culture industry’s way of thanking West, so be it. She deserves the moment in the sun.