Wednesday, March 4, 2015

"The Unspeakable," by Meghan Daum

Meghan Daum’s personal essays are certainly attention-grabbing, compelling, original, and hard to put down. In her second collection of essays, “The Unspeakable: and Other Subjects of Discussion” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014), she writes about her fraught relationship with her mother, her mother’s deathbed, her waiting until her late thirties to marry, her decision not to have children, her great love of dogs and especially her late dog Rex, her love of lesbians, a sudden and potentially catastrophic illness that she miraculously recovered from, her love of Los Angeles after years living elsewhere and finally settling in L.A., and why she is not a foodie, among other topics. She writes with a directness and candidness that is at times breathtaking, yet does not seem to be writing to shock. She is also matter of fact and does not seem to be attempting to manipulate her readers emotionally. Being an essayist of this talent is no easy thing; I think that people like me who value fiction above all sometimes forget how hard it is to write good essays, and how rewarding it is to read such essays. I should know this (the part about its being hard) as my academic writing has increasingly taken on essayistic qualities. I do not mean -- at all! -- to compare myself to gifted and well known essayists such as Daum, but simply to say that this is a topic I have thought a lot about, and has been part of forming my own practice of writing. But back to Daum’s book: If you want a bracing read, one that is almost exhilarating for the surprises and for the tone, I think you will very much like “The Unspeakable.”

No comments:

Post a Comment

Site Meter