Reading Group Center

’90s Mixtape Playlist from Wow, No Thank You.

Samantha Irby’s hilarious new book, Wow, No Thank You., is finally out, and we are in love. Jia Tolentino calls Irby “stay-up-all-night, miss-your-subway-stop, spit-out-your-beverage funny. . . . [Her] writing is as irresistible as a snack tray, as intimately pleasurable as an Irish goodbye.” We could not agree more! Anybody who follows Irby on Instagram (and we highly recommend that you do) knows that she loves listening to music. We’ve created a playlist based on the mixtape she imagines making in the chapter “Late-1900s Time Capsule” so you can listen along while you read. (It’s amazing how much easier that was to make than it would have been in the nineties.)

Get ready to sing along!


Excerpt from “Late-1900s Time Capsule” in Wow, No Thank You.

Mixtapes were the love language of my youth. If you got one from me, that shit was as serious as a marriage proposal. Maybe because they were so time- consuming to make? I had a painstaking process I went through before I put a mix together. First of all, I would figure out what mood I was trying to create: How cool did I want the recipient to think I was? Is this a person who would understand my deep and abiding love for They Might Be Giants? Would they see through my artificial cool and realize that 50 percent of the songs I’d chosen had come from the Pulp Fiction soundtrack?

The second thing to consider: What was the goal? What kind of overwhelming pressure was I placing on a meager 1.43 ounces of plastic film and magnetic tape? Was I trying to convince someone that I was worthy of their love and/or friendship? Or did I just want them to know that I, too, spent a lot of time hanging out at the indie record store after school digging through all the used CDs in the alternative section hoping to find something interesting that was also less than seven dollars? Or, failing those two, was I trying to make them jealous of my wide-ranging interests? (Why, yes, I do enjoy both Phish and Nina Simone!) And, most important, should I use a ninety-minute tape or a sixty-minute one? (Oh, I know, I know: GIRL, WHAT THE FUCK IS A TAPE?!)

Here is my ’90s mixtape for you. Please love me.

(If you can’t see the Spotify playlist, click here.)

    A SIDE

“World Falls,” Indigo Girls (live version)
What do you mean, you’re “surprised I ended up with a lady”?

“Black,” Pearl Jam
I first heard Pearl Jam in the seventh grade, when this kid I didn’t know very well was brandishing a copy of Ten on cassette in our language arts class. I asked to borrow it and took it home and held a tape recorder up to the speaker in our living room for an hour to record it. (This, sweet babies, is my version of “in my day, we used to have to walk up a hill to get to school with plastic bags for shoes!” Please kill me.) I then listened to that recording for months and months and months while brooding. Being very complicated and deep, I was enamored with this idea that love was difficult and stressful, and that torrid relationships fraught with passion and rage were exciting. This was, of course, before I knew how tiring life can be for an adult. Oh my goodness, “my bitter hands cradle broken glass / of what was everything”? Yes, please! “All the love gone bad turned my world to black”? Swoon city. Eddie was the perfect embodiment of Brokenhearted Sensitive Grunge Man; I lived for him then, and I still do. I would totally listen to him howl about his electric bill.

“Elsewhere,” Sarah McLachlan
Freshman year of high school, I failed gym class. Oh, I know. It’s easy to think you know why, and guess what, you’re right! I appear to be as athletic as a boiled chicken sandwich under a heat lamp in the cafeteria. That’s something I understood about myself, which is why I spent an entire semester sitting on the sidelines of every gym activity pretending to be suffering from debilitating menstrual cramps rather than pissing off my classmates while trying to play kickball. Listen, I don’t need to trip over my own feet trying to dive for a volleyball that’s inevitably going to bust me in the face, and you don’t need to waste all your budding testosterone yelling at me for making us lose; it’s a win for everyone to have me sit out! So I failed a semester due to lack of participation, which is perfectly reasonable. I also failed a semester of history that year, and math, which was less so. My mom was dying! But I also literally never did any work. In a fit of optimism, I signed up for summer school to try to make up some of the classes I’d failed, and the only available gym class was first thing in the morning. In the fucking summer. Unbeknownst to me, it was full of super seniors who should have graduated already but didn’t have all their credits completed, so I was out there trying to play catcher behind grown men with full beards swinging their bats harder than Barry fucking Bonds. These were gentlemen who smoked cigarettes in the outfield and ran full speed into you when you tried to tag them out, so after a week of crouching with my arms over my head while crying, I would get off the bus at school in my gym shorts and walk to the McDonald’s a few blocks away, grateful that it was still early enough in the day to get a one-dollar sausage biscuit, while listening to this incredibly soothing song. I failed gym again that summer. Senior year, I had to take two gym classes so they would let me graduate. I got very good at badminton.

For Irby’s annotations for the rest of the songs on this playlist, be sure to check out Wow, No Thank You.!

Excerpted from Wow, No Thank You. by Samantha Irby. Copyright © 2020 by Samantha Irby. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. (pp. 45–48)