Started reading this at 8 last night and came up for air, disoriented, 5 hours later. It’s a series of personal essays that make you wonder why you ever denounced the person essay. Maybe Chloe’s the only one who should really be writing them. She talks about friendships & small mistakes & big mistakes & the general chaos of being in your 20s.
It’s been a while since I read something and had to sit there for a few minutes and just feel it, but her essay The Music & The Boys was Striking. Anyways, I liked this book, can you tell?
The best books, to me, are genre-benders. Too autobiographical to be considered straight fiction, too poetic to be completely factual. Pushing into essay, memoir, and poetry all at once. On those counts, this book is pretty much perfect. It’s charming and funny but barbed, likely to get caught in your brain for the foreseeable future. I very much recommend.
When I first discovered entire books of essays existed with Sloane Crosley’s I Was Told There’d Be Cake during Spring Break my junior year of college (it really took me that long), it felt like a miracle. It was like blogs in a book. It was the kind of writing I wanted to do, written by the kind of authors I wanted to befriend. I read nothing but essays for about a year. But the thing about essays is that they have to be good. They either have to be very informative, very poignant, or very very funny, and either way they have to be so well written that you don’t feel like you’re wasting your time. They have to fight to prove themselves in a way that novels and traditional non-fiction get a pass on.
All that to say, this one lost the war. The first essay was electric, about her and her best friend growing up in Florida, and I wanted the rest of them to follow suit, but they were too long, too detailed. They were interesting enough topics, but she couldn’t get back to the humanity of the first essay. And it wasn’t really that much about Florida. I really wanted it to be more about Florida.
“In late August a baby was born, or, as it seemed to me, a puma moved into my apartment, a near-mute force, and then I noticed it was December.”
Rivka Galchen has the kind of name that gets stuck in your head for the rest of your life. I regularly find myself whispering it when I’m stuck in traffic or trying to do math in my head or walking to get the mail. This book has the scattered, wry puzzle piece, anecdotal feel of Lydia Davis, which you either love or you don’t really get. I would rather die a slow and painful death than deprive the world of Lydia Davis, so one can assume I fall on the love side.
So the book is about her baby, the puma, and other babies, and literature, and a lot of other things. It is good.
Rating: I originally started to put this book up here because Caleb told me that I couldn’t have all books that were rated 10/10, I had to do some that I liked less. Unfortunately, upon further consideration, this book is also a 10/10.