Since I’m still jobless (Potential employers, if you’re reading this, here’s a link to my résumé. Please hire me.), I am back to blogging about books I’ve read for fun. One of the most miraculous post-grad discoveries I’ve made thus far is that unemployment and lack of homework allow me to read for pure enjoyment. It’s incredible. As a born-again bookworm, I have realized how vital leisurely reading is to maintaining a high level of happiness with my life.
I’ll admit it: the number one reason I picked up this book is that a reviewer compared her writing to that of Joan Didion. While I won’t go so far as to call Meghan Daum the next Didion, The Unspeakable is well written, honest and enjoyable. I laughed out loud; I related to the narrator. Reading it, I felt as if we were having a long conversation — a telltale sign of a good writer in my not-so-humble opinion. I found myself captivated by her tales of growing up and finding herself; making major life decisions, especially with regard to marriage and parenthood; and confessions such as not being a foodie, which resonated with me and my inability to achieve #domesticgoddess status despite a newfound love of The Food Network and HGTV.
Daum even made me briefly reconsider my instinctual rejection of Los Angeles, which is no small feat – just ask my LA-bound college friends. She also made me consider the acts of reading and writing memoirs, and on a broader scale, why we write.
In May, I wrapped up my final semester of college, during which I was enrolled in the most challenging course I have ever taken. It wasn’t that content was difficult, though making sense neo-Lacanians and higher ed pedagogy is not at all easy; it was emotionally challenging.
Around mid-March I asked to meet with the professor. I was struggling with the course; I dreaded each class meeting and watched the clock intently, silently counting down the minutes until 5:15 p.m. As someone who has always loved school, this was new to me. Even suffering through a semester of calculus in high school wasn’t as painful as the mid-semester class meetings for this course. Before my meeting with the professor, I bought a cup of coffee at the library. My nerves got the better of me and I spilled the coffee instead of drinking it. I was bursting with anxiety when we sat down in his small, cluttered office. He asked how I was – how my semester was going. It took me months to understand why I almost immediately started to cry.
His question – his concern for me – was genuine, which was shocking to me. I have found that when most people ask “How are you?” they don’t really mean it. They often don’t want to hear about your sickly relative or unemployment or money problems. They want to hear that you’re happy and healthy – that all is well. Somehow, real life has become too uncomfortable to talk about. That’s why my mother consistently reminds me not to discuss politics, sex or religion before we leave the house for holiday dinners with our extended family.
One of the key points of this professor’s course was to interrogate the question “Why do we write?” Based on Daum’s collection of essays, I suspect she writes to answer “How are you?” a bit more honestly than many of us are used to. Throughout the book she skips the small talk and invites the reader to take a look at her real story and taboo topics that we often avoid in day-to-day conversation. The course challenged me to do the same, and my dedication to doing so is a major reason why I enjoyed Daum’s writing so much. Telling her truth takes a lot of courage, but she does it well. She doesn’t leave things unsaid.
Next up: Tina Fey’s Bossypants and How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran. In May I was in the midst of a feminist rampage and ended up on Amazon. I justified the purchases by reminding myself that there are much more reckless ways of dealing with my pro-woman rage and doing damage to my bank account than by adding to my already overflowing bookshelf.
Update: I finished Bossypants on my way to New York and loved it. Before I read Moran’s book, I’ve started Thrive by Arianna Huffington. Clearly I’m still in my memoirs-written-by-successful-women phase. I suspect I’ll need some fiction soon!