Classics Club Spin #17: The Long-Winded Lady: Notes From the New Yorker by Maeve Brennan #ccspin

Sometimes I think that inside New York there is a Wooden Horse struggling desperately to get out, but more often these days I think of New York as the capsized city. Half-capsized, anyway, with the inhabitants hanging on, most of them still able to laugh as they cling to the island that is their life’s predicament.

Even after more than twenty-five years the long-winded lady cannot think of herself as a “real” New Yorker. If she has a title, it is one held by many others, that of a traveler in residence. As a traveler she is interested in what she sees, but she is not very curious, not even inquisitive. She is not a sightseer, never an explorer… She is drawn to what she recognizes, or half-recognizes, and these forty-seven pieces are the record of forty-seven moments of recognition.

51auvQaKFML._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_My first Classics Club Spin (I joined back in February) was a mixed bag. The late Irish-born writer Maeve Brennan intrigues me, so I am glad that I read her collection of essays about living in New York City in the 1950’s and 1960’s, The Long Winded Lady: Notes From the New Yorker. These were originally published as pieces in the magazine for which she worked for more than 30 years as as staff writer. I found the experience of reading the collection in a few weeks’ time to be challenging, despite its short length. I tried to space them out by reading one or two a day at the most, but they still started to blend together for me. Many of them are set in restaurants, observations of the people eating and drinking and the staff. Many of them are about buildings being torn down in favor of “progress.” There is a palpable sense of transience about the collection as a whole, of a city in flux, a time of great social change. Most of the essays are indeed about small moments between two people, whether between people Brennan observes or between Brennan and someone else.

Brennan is a talented observer and chronicler of human foibles and quirks. She has a way with words. In one piece I liked, “Balzac’s Favorite Food,” she writes of peacefully browsing a book shop, just starting to read about something that Balzac would mix into sardines that he mashed on bread, when she was interrupted by a group of obnoxious interlopers.

…I took off my glasses to get a look at them. Cruelty and Stupidity and Bad Noise – there were three of them, a man and a woman and another, but I did not see the third, who was hidden behind the tall spindle bookcase they were all looking at and making merry over. They called out names and titles, and made a lot of feeble puns, ruining the place for everybody, and I paid for the books I had under my arm, and left. I walked over to Le Steak de Paris and asked for sardines and plain bread, but when I began to mash the sardines, I couldn’t remember what it was that Balzac used to mix them with. It didn’t matter. Sardines with plain bread are very good. I said to myself that there was no use thinking about the hyenas in the bookshop. Their capacity for arousing violence will arouse somebody who is violent one of these days.

She decides she will go back to the bookshop that night, find the book, and before the night is through she will know precisely how Balzac’s favorite food tastes.

11
121 Charles St.

Another essay I liked, one that sent me off the Google to do some research, is “The Farmhouse That Moved Downtown.” And old farmhouse, really old, like 200 years old, was about to be torn down for a nursing home, so the then owners decided to save it and move it by truck to the Village! (It still stands today, as far as I can tell, and you can read about it here and here if you like. Margaret Wise Brown, author of Goodnight Moon and other children’s books, once lived there!)

It was a very tiny house – much smaller than I had expected. That must have been a very small farmer who built it. It was sitting up high on a sturdy cage or raft, of heavy wooden beams, on a wedge-shaped, weedy lot, with the old brick warehouses towering over it like burly nursemaids. It was a crooked little house – askew on its perch but crooked anyway – and it looked as plain and as insubstantial as a child’s chalk drawing, but it was a real house, with a real door, and a flat roof with a chimney sticking out of it.

2609
Image from The Guardian

 

But by far my favorite essay was “I Wish For A Little Street Music” (1968) which starts out bemoaning the humdrum and depressing state of the people along Broadway. (“I thought to myself: All these people are sheep, and I am a sheep.”) But then she spies a middle-aged father and teenage son reunion that tugs at the heart strings (and me me absolutely BAWL, I might add!)

The father stared admiringly up at his son, hearing every word, and you could see that what he longed for was to have the chance, just once again, to pick his child up and walk a few steps with him in his arms. And it would have taken very little to cause that boy to embrace his father and whirl him around in the air. What a funny trick Time had played on those two Рor was it a trick of Light that made the son so big while the father remained the size he had been? It was as thought some cameraman had enlarged a picture of the child and left the father life-size. 

…Maybe they went to the Howard Johnson’s at Forty-sixth Street. That is a nice place, especially if you get near the window, so that you can look out at the crowd passing and see that at a little distance there are no sheep on Broadway.

So while I did enjoy the essays, and some of them very much, overall I felt relieved when I finished the collection. This is probably more to do with the time constraints of having to get this read and written about by the end of April for The Classics Club than flaws in the material itself. If I’d spread this collection out for a few months instead of weeks I may have ended up giving it a higher rating. So I hope that if you are at all interested in essays about New York City, if you want a glimpse into what it may have been like (for a professional white woman) in the 1950’s and 1960’s, if you are a fan of Brennan’s fiction, then please do give this one a try. There is much here to admire.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Mini-Reviews: Swing Time and Letter From New York

Goodreads tells me I’ve read 18 books so far in 2018. This includes audio books and two chapter books I’ve read with my son (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Charlie and The Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl.) Currently my son and I have been reading more of the Magic Tree House books by Mary Pope Osborn. I haven’t included those in my tally since they’re so short but I’m thinking perhaps I should. After all, I’m reading them aloud to him a few chapters every night, and I’m enjoying them! Why should book length have anything to do with if it “really counts” as reading?

Anyway, I don’t review everything I read because, frankly, I want to do other things at night after he goes to sleep and I have a couple of hours to myself, including yoga, painting my nails, watching Netflix/movies, and – oh yes – reading! ūüôā So in the interest of catching up, here are a couple of quickie mini-reviews of recent reads.

51hi92m66BLSwing Time by Zadie Smith. When this came out in 2016 I added it to my TBR list and then in 2017 I took it off. Well, it was chosen as my book group choice last month so I ended up reading it after all! I gave it three stars but feel like it might really be closer to two for me. Parts of it felt like a total SLOG. The last 50 pages or so redeemed it a bit and brought up the star rating. It’s about two young mixed-race British girls growing up in a poor part of town, taking dance classes together and watching old dance movies with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, among others. Our narrator (first person) is unnamed, but her more talented friend is named Tracey, and she is more of a vibrant character at times as well. As they come of age, they do grow apart for many reasons, like their families and general paths in life. Our narrator ends up being the personal assistant to a super famous pop star named Aimee, an utterly obnoxious woman (almost a caricature.) Aimee has a notion to open a girls’ school in Senegal and Our Narrator helps get that running. We go back and forth with chapters about the friendship and chapters about Aimee and Africa. I never felt like I really got to know Our Narrator very well. I felt like she was passive, aimless, and very afraid to let herself really love or care deeply about anyone.

There was some beautiful writing, and I feel like Smith is so talented on a purely sentence quality level. I just wish her stories were better, more focused. To be fair, I’ve only read two of her books, this one and White Teeth. But I also felt like White Teeth started strong and petered out by the end. So I’m frustrated with my experiences of reading Smith, and it makes me not want to waste my time with any of her other novels. If anyone else out there has read NW or On Beauty, tell me what you think. My book group meeting is tomorrow (Sunday,) and I’m certain that this book will offer us plenty to discuss.

231256Letter From New York: BBC Woman’s Hour Broadcasts by Helene Hanff. This was a yummy blueberry muffin of a book. Enjoyable, sweet, kind of forgettable. I found my copy of this slim collection of essays last fall in a used book shop in Black Mountain, NC called Black Mountain Books. You may recognize Hanff’s name from her beloved book 84 Charing Cross Road, which every book lover should read in my opinion. Letter From New York is a collection of essays she read on a BBC radio show called The Woman’s Hour. They are short pieces detailing her life in New York City in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Her friends, neighbors, neighbors’ dogs, neighbors’ tiny patio gardens, dinner parties, New York City parades, the wonder and splendor of Central Park – all of these and more are chronicled in charming vignettes that take about five minutes each to read. I read one or two every day, parceling them out in the morning like little mini-muffins of a time gone by. I enjoyed them, but I didn’t take any notes or really even single out any particular paragraphs. I’ll say that if you’re a fan of reading about New York City, or if you enjoyed Hanff’s Charing Cross Road, you should seek out this 140-page collection.

Do you sometimes not “count” certain types of reading in your yearly Goodreads tally? Should I give Zadie Smith another try? Is the movie version of 84 Charing Cross Road worth a watch? Share your thoughts on this or anything else in the comments!

This Is The Story Of A Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett (#20BooksofSummer book 7)

(Note: ¬†This book was NOT on my original list for 20 Books of Summer. ¬†Nor was it on my REVISED list. ¬†Ha ha! ¬†I just really felt like reading it, so it’s going to bump off one of the books on my revised list. ¬†I can do that, right? Sure I can!)

41tMa5BmZ2L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_This is one that’s been on my TBR forever. ¬†I am a big fan of Ann Patchett, especially Bel Canto and her memoir about her friendship with the late Lucy Grealy,¬†Truth and Beauty. ¬†I hadn’t read that one in a long time and I’d forgotten just how good Patchett is at writing nonfiction. ¬†She excels at it, in my opinion. ¬†I haven’t read a whole lot of essay collections, and the ones I’ve read usually are hit or miss. ¬†But This Is The Story Of A Happy Marriage is stellar. ¬†There were just a few instances where I shrugged after I finished. Mostly, I stared contentedly into space and said, “Wow…”

This wide-ranging collection reads like a loosely structured memoir. ¬†The reader learns much about Patchett’s parents’s doomed marriage, her Catholic school education, her early days as a writer, and her own disastrous first marriage. ¬†We learn about her dog, Rose, and her grandmother, Eva. ¬†We get a glimpse of the (ridiculous) controversy over Truth and Beauty when it was assigned reading for freshman at Clemson University in South Carolina, and we discover the genesis of Parnassus Books, the successful independent bookstore she co-owns in her hometown of Nashville, TN. ¬†Patchett comes across as fiercely dedicated to the craft of writing and fiercely loyal to those she loves. ¬†She is frank about her own shortcomings, both professional and personal. ¬†She is not exactly a warm presence but there is an unsparingly honest and wise quality to her writing that is appealing.

Forgiveness.  The ability to forgive oneself.  Stop here for a few breaths and think about this because it is the key to making art, and very possibly the key to finding any semblance of happiness in life.

My favorite essay was “The Wall,” which was about Patchett’s father, who was a police officer with the LAPD for over 30 years. ¬†Patchett got an idea to write a nonfiction book about the LAPD during the horrible time of the Rodney King riots. ¬†She wanted to show a different view of the LAPD, the one that she was privy to as the daughter of a cop. ¬†She decided to train for and take the test to be admitted to the Police Academy. ¬†She details her self-styled training regimen (she was 30 at the time,) complete with clearing a six-foot wall, one of the biggest hurdles for women trying to enter the Academy especially. ¬†Her account of the physical, written, and oral exam process is fascinating. The whole time she’s doing all of this, her father doesn’t exactly believe her when she says she’s only doing it for the book. ¬†Part of him hopes she’ll actually go through with it and become a cop. ¬†As I read this I was reminded of my favorite contemporary detective series, Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch books, which are set in the LAPD. ¬†Part of me marveled at Patchett’s dedication to her craft and part of me wondered, “Why are you wasting all these peoples’ time?”

This was a collection in which I wanted to read multiple essays at one sitting; when I had to put it down, I was eager to get the chance to pick it up again. There is a lot of hard-earned wisdom here, a life in which mistakes have led to a deeper understanding and a greater sense of compassion, both for herself and for others. ¬†If you’re a writer or enjoy reading about the craft of writing, I say pick this one up. ¬†(“The Getaway Car,” another of my favorites, is a fantastic glimpse at the writing process.) ¬†If you’ve ever deeply loved a pet or a relative, you’ll find gems here. ¬†(Warning: I did cry a couple of times, as one might expect when reading an essay about a beloved pet or relative dying.) This was a terrific read, and even if you’re generally not into reading essays, I say give this a try.

Have you read this? ¬†Are there essay collections you’re particularly fond of? I’d love to know your thoughts.

 

Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen by Laurie Colwin

I liked Laurie Colwin’s Home Cooking: ¬†A Writer in the Kitchen. ¬†But I didn’t love it, and I know it says more about me than about the book. ¬†I’m not much of a cook, frankly. ¬†I make good scrambled eggs, can roast some vegetables, and can make a decent grilled cheese. ¬†I pretty much leave the rest of the cooking to my husband, who really enjoys the task (see? ¬†I call it a “task”) and take solace in the fact that I enjoy baking and am good at it.41NSwNv9PfL

So I think someone who is more comfortable in the kitchen and has a more adventurous culinary spirit would appreciate this collection of food essays more than I did. ¬†Laurie Colwin was a writer who lived in New York City and not only wrote about cooking for Gourmet magazine in the 1980’s, but also wrote five novels and three collections of short stories. ¬†Sadly, she passed away from a heart attack at the age of 48. ¬†Her writing has experienced a renaissance of sorts, particularly her food writing. (You can read an interesting article about how her essays¬†continue to influence foodies now here. ¬†The comments are particularly moving since her daughter responds to many who expressed their admiration.)

What I liked about the essays was the tone – she’s quite funny, breezy, and opinionated. She admits no formal training but more of a “let’s just see what happens” attitude to cooking, which is something I admire in people. ¬†My husband has that. ¬†She also consistently writes about cooking as a way to get people together and apparently was a great fan of casual dinner parties. ¬†She writes in a way that conveys her sense of cooking as an act of love and service to her friends and family. ¬†And yet my favorite essay was the one called “Alone in the Kitchen With An Eggplant.” ¬†This one details her former one room apartment in which she cooked and hosted friends¬†with a two-burner stove; essentially a hot plate.

When I was alone, I lived on eggplant, the stove top cook’s strongest ally. ¬†I fried it and stewed it, and ate it crisp and sludgy, hot and cold. ¬†It was cheap and filling and was delicious in all manner of strange combinations. ¬†If any was left over I ate it cold the next day on bread. ¬†

Dinner alone is one of life’s pleasures. ¬†Certainly cooking for oneself reveals man at his weirdest. ¬†People lie when you ask them what they eat when they are alone. ¬†A salad, they tell you. ¬†But when you persist, they confess to peanut butter and bacon sandwiches deep fried and eaten with hot sauce, or spaghetti with butter and grape jam. ¬†

I looked forward to nights alone.  I would stop to buy my eggplant and some red peppers.  At home I would fling off my coat, switch on the burner under my teakettle, slice up the eggplant, and make myself a cup of coffee.  I could do all this without moving a step.  When the eggplant was getting crisp, I turned down the fire and added garlic, tamari sauce, lemon juice, and some shredded red peppers.  While this stewed I drank my coffee and watched the local news.  Then I uncovered the eggplant, cooked it down and ate it as my desk out of an old Meissen dish, with my feet up on my wicker footrest as I watched the national news.

She shares a recipe for bread that I intend to attempt as one of my 40 Challenges this year. ¬†I’ve never made bread before but the notion is appealing and is pretty much like baking in my book. ¬†Other than that, I wasn’t tempted to make any of her recipes, really. ¬†For one thing, there’s a lot of beef, which I don’t eat. ¬†She presented the recipes breezily but they seemed kind of complicated to me. ¬†A lot of the things she liked to cook are not things I want to eat. ¬†I grew a bit weary of her opinions as I read on, and I ended up skimming the last few essays. ¬†I truly think that someone who enjoys cooking and feels intuitive in the kitchen would enjoy this collection, though. ¬†Lots of five star reviews on Goodreads attest to that. ¬†The rest of us¬†would be satisfied with picking and choosing a few essays.

Have you read anything by Laurie Colwin? ¬†Is there a food writer that you particularly like? How do you feel about cooking and/or baking? ¬†I’d love to hear your thoughts.

You’ll Grow Out Of It by Jessi Klein

Oh my goodness, this was a fun read. ¬†I had no idea who Jessi Klein even was before I read this, but a bookish friend’s positive review on Goodreads made me add her memoir You’ll Grow Out Of It to my TBR. ¬†(Thanks, Eve!) ¬†I don’t watch Amy Schumer’s show, of which Klein is head writer and executive producer. ¬†But it didn’t matter one bit as I raced through these funny, slightly raunchy essays on growing up, living, and loving as a cishet Jewish woman¬†in America. ¬†I’m the target audience for this book, I think – I’m two years younger than Klein (we’re solidly Gen X) and reading these essays made me feel like I’d found an equally neurotic, self-deprecating, more hilarious kindred spirit.

Let me share some of my favorite passages with you:

On the three style options available to women as they grow older – 1) You were a Supermodel, 2) You are Rich, and 3) You’re an Eccentric:

This is the last option. ¬†And it will be my option. ¬†We see these women all the time. They’re not leaning on beauty, and they’re not leaning on money. ¬†They’re leaning on character. ¬†They wear hot pink tights and high-top sneakers. ¬†They wear big glasses and pillbox hats. ¬†They looked like they might have once worked at Interview even though they didn’t. ¬†Or they look like Betsey Johnson back in the 1980s, but now here in the present and much older. ¬†Thy’re memorable and fun. ¬†They’re kooky old ladies. ¬†When I see them, I feel a little pulse of happiness that maybe I won’t be so sad losing the little dollop of prettiness I was allotted. ¬†That maybe the secret to getting old and feeling okay is just buying an enormous silly hat and making people smile when they look at you because they think you’re having a good time.

But maybe that’s not what the hat is about. ¬†Maybe the real issue is not so much making other people think you’re having a super-fun time creeping toward death; it’s simply being seen. ¬†This is the lament of older women, and ultimately of all old people – that you become invisible. ¬†It is especially hard for women, though, whose entire lives have been spend spinning around the idea that if no one is staring at you, you’ve somehow failed. ¬†Maybe the silly hat is really a Hail Mary to get people to look at you, no matter the reason.

 51bvntfqcnl-_sy344_bo1204203200_On the two types of women, Poodles vs. Wolves:

Wolves need to eat more than poodles do (both larger amounts and more frequently.) Wolves wear lip balm. Wolves can’t deal with thongs. Wolves sweat a lot. Wolves are funny. Wolves show up ten minutes early to everything and are always the first ones there and then have to fake a conversation on their cell phone so they look like they know other human beings on this earth. Wolves usually own two bras total, and neither of them matched their tattered old Gap underwear. ¬†Wolves lose their virginity during their junior year of college at the very earliest.

On natural childbirth vs. getting an epidural:

But how often do people really want women to be or do anything “natural?”

It seems to me the answer is almost never. ¬†In fact, almost everything “natural” about women is considered pretty fucking horrific. ¬†Hairy legs and armpits? ¬†Please shave, you furry beast. ¬†And while you’re at it, don’t forget to remove your pubic hair, that’s also an abomination. ¬†Do you have hips and cellulite? ¬†Please go hide in the very back of your show closet and turn¬†the light off and stay there until someone tells you to come out (no one will tell you to come out.)

It’s interesting that no one cares very much about women doing anything “naturally” until it involves them being in excruciating pain.

No one ever asks a man if he’s having a “natural root canal.” ¬†No one ever asks if a man is having a “natural vasectomy.”

GET THE EPIDURAL.

I read some negative Goodreads reviews of this that reference Klein’s obvious privilege, and yes, she does talk often about visiting¬†spas and fancy stores, but that didn’t bother me for some reason. ¬†I mean, I figure someone who’s the head writer of Inside Amy Schumer is going to be buying top end skin care products. ¬†Honestly, if I were a successful, famous comedy writer, I’d be buying $250 jars of La Mer too. ¬†Klein struck me as knowing that all the stuff she gets to do now is slightly crazy but she’s also kind of enjoying it. ¬†I don’t begrudge her that. ¬†I appreciated her honesty and her self-deprecating, relatable humor about her own awkwardness in all things “feminine.”

This was when I learned one of the biggest secrets of being a women, which is that most of the time, we don’t feel like we’re women at all.

If you’re a fan of female comedian memoirists, like Mindy Kaling, Tina Fey, and Amy Poehler, you’ll probably enjoy You’ll Grow Out Of It. ¬†It’s a funny, somewhat profane, sometimes poignant essay collection that I’m glad I took a chance on.

 

 

Mini Review – Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde

It seems that my reading speed is far outpacing my blogging speed right now, so I decided to write a mini-review.. ¬†I feel like this is a book that I¬†must¬†share. ¬†Based on my Goodreads friends, I know many of you have read it, or read selections from it. ¬†If I borrow a book from the library, and I think it’s one that I’m likely to write a post about, I take notes in a medium-sized magenta ¬†notebook. ¬†While reading Audre Lorde’s collection of essays and speeches, Sister Outsider, I ended up with four pages. ¬†It took me quite a while to get through this, because I did not want to rush it. ¬†I wanted to sit with the essays for a while. ¬†I’d read Lorde in college in my women’s studies classes, but that was almost twenty years ago, and honestly, I can’t remember half of what I did back then (other than make midnight trips¬†to Taco Bell with my friends and pine obsessively for boys who weren’t into me.)

img_0322This is a collection written in the 1970s and early 1980s, but (sadly) so much of what Lorde writes feels relevant and fresh for today’s reader. ¬†Bookended by insightful travel pieces¬†about Russia and Grenada, the bulk of Lorde’s essays are about speaking , writing, and owning her truth, and the power of words, language, and poetry to unite women who may lead different kinds of lives but who are all oppressed by patriarchal structures. ¬†There were so many powerful passages that I noted, so many sentences that spoke to me and that I wanted to share.

I was reminded of Lindy West and her excellent book Shrill when I read this from “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action:”

What are the words you do not have? ¬†What do you need to say? ¬†What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you sicken and die of them, still in silence… And where the words of women are crying to be heard,we must each of us recognize our responsibility, to seek those words out, to read them and share them and examine them in their pertinence to our lives. ¬†That we not hid behind the mockeries of separations that have been imposed upon us and which we so often accept as our own.

This stunning passage is from “Man Child: A Black Lesbian Feminist’s Response:”

I wish to raise a Black man who will not be destroyed by, nor settle for, those corruptions called power by the white fathers who mean his destruction as surely as they mean mine. ¬†I wish to raise a Black man who will recognize that the legitimate objects of his hostility are not women, but the particulars of a structure that programs him to fear and despise women as well as his own Black self. ¬†For me this task begins with teaching my son that I do not exist to do his feeling for him. ¬†Men who are afraid to feel must keep women around to do their feeling for them while dismissing us for the same supposedly “inferior” capacity ¬†to feel deeply.

And finally, this passage on guilt from “The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism;”

Guilt is not a response to anger; it is a response to one’s own action or lack of action. ¬†If it leads to change then it can be useful, since then it is no longer guilt but the beginning of knowledge. ¬†Yet all too often, guilt is just another name for impotence, for defensiveness destructive of communication; it becomes a device to protect ignorance and the continuation of things the way they are, the ultimate protection for changelessness.

Oh man, I felt that.  Did you feel that?

I wish I could be more eloquent in my appreciation of Lorde’s poetically devastating prose. While some of the essays in the book spoke to me more than others, this is a book to be shared, discussed, and pondered. ¬†It is the kind of book that can change lives, that can galvanize action, that can inspire a woman to speak her truth and seek out common ground with others who are speaking theirs. ¬†I am so glad that I read it.

Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West

I freely admit to not being the most plugged in person on the planet, so before my book group chose Lindy West’s Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman as our choice last month, I hadn’t heard of her. ¬†I am grateful that a fellow member brought this book to our attention, and I now consider myself a Lindy West fan. ¬†Our group certainly had a lot to talk about.

You may have heard of West from her appearances on NPR’s This American Life. ¬†She’s done two episodes in the last two years. ¬†In one she gets an unexpected and heartfelt apology from the internet troll who impersonated her recently deceased father (episode 545.) ¬†In the other (episode 589) West talks about how she started embracing her identity as a fat woman.41L6cVdMOFL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

Shrill is a book of essays and also a memoir, although our group couldn’t quite decide if it felt more like one than the other. ¬†West writes about the lack of positive, sexy, young fat women role models in entertainment, her period, her abortion, growing into acceptance of her body, internet trolls, not fitting into a seat on an airplane, misogyny in stand-up comedy, and her father’s death. ¬†Some of her writing is funny and brave, some of it is heartbreaking and raw. ¬†All of it is infused with a passionately feminist, body-positive perspective. ¬†I marked many passages as I read. ¬†I’d like to share a few.

On vicious internet harassment (in the brilliantly titled chapter “Why Fat Lady So Mean to Baby Men?”): ¬†“Why is invasive, relentless abuse – that disproportionately affects marginalized people who have already faced additional obstacles just to establish themselves in this field – something we should all have to live with just to do our jobs? ¬†Six years later, this is still a question I’ve yet to have answered.”

On the pressure to be a thin and beautiful woman in our society: “Women matter. ¬†Women are half of us. ¬†When you raise every woman to believe that we are insignificant, that we are broken, that we are sick, that the only cure is starvation and restraint and smallness; when you pit women against one another, keep us shackled by shame and hunger, obsessing over our flaws rather than our power and potential; when you leverage all of that to sap our money and our time – that moves the rudder of the world. ¬†It steers humanity toward conservatism and walls and the narrow interests of men, and it keeps us adrift in waters where women’s safety and humanity are secondary to men’s pleasure and convenience.”

On rape jokes in comedy: “Comedians regularly retort that no one complains when they joke about murder or other crimes in their acts, citing that as a double standard. ¬†Well, fortunately, there is no cultural narrative casting doubt on the existence and prevalence of murder and pressuring people not to report it.”

I feel like Lindy West is such a necessary writer and a strong and relatable feminist voice. ¬†I found her to be funny and insightful and fierce. ¬†I marvel at her hard-won confidence. ¬†I’m angry that she has to endure such hateful vitriol online for speaking her mind and loving who she is. ¬†Shrill¬†is a great choice for a book club – it provides so many avenues of conversation. ¬†This was a very good collection of essays – powerful and brave in a way that women in our society¬†definitely need.