Even before writing her first collection of darkly funny personal essays, ”Tiny Ladies in Shiny Pants,” Jill Soloway had professional and artistic cred to spare. She was a writer and co-executive producer of the critically worshipped television show ”Six Feet Under,” and she founded the popular bi-weekly storytelling night, ”Sit ‘n Spin,” in her hometown of Los Angeles. But such resume highlights hardly sum up the mix of brash irreverence, sexual candor, and exuberant curiosity that infuse her collection’s first-person stories and (loosely) academic-based musings on gender politics. Most of the book’s essays were originally written for ”Sit ‘n Spin,” a night Soloway describes as ”somewhere between stand-up comedy, an A.A. meeting and a literary salon.” This mood will be re-created in Cambridge tonight, with Soloway and her sister, local musician Faith Soloway, performing duets penned during their childhood, and the equally funny and brassy Lisa Carver, author most recently of ”Drugs Are Nice,” reading Soloway’s work.
The essays in ”Tiny/Shiny” are augmented with deeply opinionated passages on female sexuality, feminism, Jewish culture, star-stalking, and a grab bag of Soloway’s other personal obsessions. With her own zesty confessions as an exemplar, Soloway encourages women (and men) to dare honesty about who they are, and what they secretly like (in her case, sex, celebrity, and a good self-Google) and hate (again, in her case, dogs, sexual double standards, and small-mindedness of all types). For Soloway, the balance between social commentary and humor is a tricky one, but she feels like the contradiction between the two is a large part of who she is. ”My hope is that the comedic, essay-ish stuff will bring in people who maybe wouldn’t otherwise read a book about feminist theory,” Soloway says, ”and that the feminist theory will have more resonance when it’s shown against this background of real-life experiences.”