“When Gabe Liedman, my comedy partner, and I first started doing comedy, we felt really free to use language that were slurs against women or Jews or gay people, because we felt that that empowered us,” Slate said. “And now it’s like, I don’t want to hear that at all. We are in an emergency, and you can’t use that language because it’s all flammable.”
Since April, Slate has been living, mostly without air-conditioning, in the childhood home of her fiancé, Ben Shattuck. The couple also spends time on Cuttyhunk Island, located off Cape Cod, where Shattuck is the director of a writers’ residency and where Slate in June gave a widely covered speech to the island’s one graduating eighth-grader.
She spends her time reading, writing, swimming in the river behind their house on the South Coast of Massachusetts and napping, as Shattuck, who is also a painter and a curator, has taught her to enjoy. Sometimes they drive his mother’s Prius an hour into Providence, R.I., the nearest city, for dinner and a movie. When they are together, Slate seems most herself; she talks about missing her parents, who live a close-but-far ferry ride away, on Martha’s Vineyard, and reminisces about the time Rihanna complimented her on her dress.
She and Shattuck met two summers ago through a series of meaningful coincidences that brought them north of the Arctic Circle. Slate had flown to Norway to celebrate the 30th birthday of the author Rebecca Dinerstein Knight, whom she met in Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill Park, in 2014.
“I had just seen ‘Obvious Child,’ and I was walking home through the park and I recognized Jenny. She was on the phone, and I gave her this incredibly ridiculous, silent round of applause as I walked by her,” Dinerstein Knight said. “She blew me a kiss. And that was the whole exchange.”
They connected that evening on Twitter and began an email correspondence. Dinerstein Knight sent Slate a copy of her first novel, “The Sunlit Night,” to read.
Which brings us back to Norway. After the celebrations, they planned to visit Lofoten, the archipelago where “The Sunlit Night” is set, to scout locations for its film adaptation starring Slate. Dinerstein Knight and her husband, John Knight, invited his best friend to join them.
Shattuck appears anonymously midway through “Little Weirds.” He and Slate talk about poetry. He roasts chicken, bakes an apple pie. She sees his butt. “Nobody touched me,” she writes, “but it felt like I had been touched.”