Why Did I Ever: A Novel
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Why Did I Ever: A Novel

3.98 of 5 stars 3.98  ·  rating details  ·  601 ratings  ·  90 reviews
After a ten-year silence, Mary Robison has emerged with a novel so beguiling and funny that it has brought critics and her live-reading audiences to their feet. Why Did I Ever takes us along on the darkest of private journeys. The story, told by a woman named Money Breton, is submitted like a furious and persuasive diary -- a tale as fierce and taut as its fictional teller...more
Hardcover, 200 pages
Published October 4th 2001 by Counterpoint Press (first published 2001)
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Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
This is not like reading Alfred Lord Tennyson, but neither is it like inhaling from a bag of glue.
Rachel Glaser
This reading experience was like no other. Robison's main character invites/swallows(?) the reader far into her everyday life. One moment she is reading her to-do list, another she is speeding down the highway blasting music, out-racing the cops. One time she threw her sunglasses out her car window, then proceeded to run over them 37 times. The details of our world--fabrics, rugs, paint, pets, phones, litter, drugs, gifts, laundry, cigarettes, radios, chairs, clothes, drawers, newspapers--are in...more
Launched on a minimalist female authors kick (thanks Amy Hempel!) I set out looking for Mary Robison. This is her most recent novel (2001), as I haven't found anything earlier yet. It forms a loose narrative out of hundreds of tiny segments (word is, she wrote it on notecards!). It's funny, sharp, sweet, honest - an often less than flattering, but always bold and affectionate portrait of a woman, somewhere past her thirties, dating an "idiot" who falls into the category of men who are "over thir...more
May 21, 2007 Tao rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Bobbie Ann Mason, Frederick Barthelme, Ann Beattie, Joy Williams
I like this book. It has many little sections. This book is funny and calm.
Seymour Glass
I was recommend this by someone whose taste (and writing) I greatly respect and admire so I was all prepared to absolutely love it and start pressing my copy enthusiastically into the hands of my friends. Unfortunately, it took me a long while (about a third of the way in) to feel like I had any clue what the plot was, what the purpose of the at times sentence-long chapters was and why I should care about this woman. An emotional reveal gave the story more pathos and convinced me to keep reading...more
I loved this book. Robison has taken the little moments and distractions--no matter how mundane--that make up our existence, and crafted them into something meaningful and quite beautiful. The book was born in her effort to defeat a kind of 'writer's block', and for me it proves something I believe to be true about writing: you can only find the work by doing it.

Robison's sentences are like hard little gems, and her sense of humor and the telling detail are very fine. As a writer, this is a boo...more
The prose in this is astounding. IT. IS. ASTOUNDING. A blurb calls this a Play It As it Lays for the 21st century, and--you know what?-- I'll buy that. I like that actually. Both books are about women, ostensibly in Hollywood, and both have problems. But they charge forward (Robison's protagonist at a quicker rate than Didion's, but we've moved forty years into the future here). I was also laughing wildly, dog-earring sections every 20 pages because there are things in here that I never want to...more
An ex once said I was probably the only Mary Robison queen on earth and it's a title I wear proudly. Easily my favorite writer, I revisit her work often and my (already fanatic) love deepens with each reading. Why Did I Ever was always one of my least favorites, something that seems extremely foreign to me now, having giggled like a numskull princess on the train over the last few days. Her humor and precision are effortless and ineffable, qualities all too mishandle or altogether missing in con...more
"Why Did i Ever" read this book!!!! I got nothing out of it! I gave it 2 stars for originality.
I think of this book as something like a literary experiment. And, in that, vein, I wouldn't call it a total failure because it's innovative and different. However, I can't rate it any higher because there's too little holding the "novel" together to make it cohesive enough to warrant a better rating.

Reading it reminded me of how I felt when I read Eeeee Eee Eeee with the notable exception that, at least in that book, it clearly was absurdist and, by the end, the story came together and offered...more
While ultimately this book left me with too many unanswered questions and a sense of . . . malaise, I learned from this book, as a writer, that a novel can look however you want it to look. Mary Robison, for example, has her own unique architecture here. Each chapter contains sectioned paragraphs, some numbered and some randomly with titles like "Shoes Dyed to Match the Bag," "Batteries Running Low," and "Whether I Matter or Not Does Not Win or Lose". They aren't usually literal descriptions of...more
I usually don't go for experimental fiction, but the voice is so strong and the flow of this novel has its own imperative, a driving compulsion from one minimalist snippet to the next. The narrative is sectioned into titled or numbered blurbs that are descriptive, dialog, stream-of-conscious processing, memories, and plain weirdness as the main character, Money, goes into manic phase or interacts with her daughter, friends, co-workers, self. An actual narrative coalesces outside the text, as you...more
I found this manic and entertaining and ultimately worthwhile, although it was sometimes hard to get my hooks into it. The story is told as a series of short quotidian narratives by the character Money Breton, whose son has been the victim of some terrible sex crime, whose daughter is a recovering addict, and who herself seems to be under-medicated for ADD. There are a couple other key characters, including an imperfect boyfriend, a bitchy Hollywood boss, and the Deaf Lady, who was my favorite....more
Simon A. Smith
A very intriguing read. Chances are you have not read a book like this before. Most chapters are no more than 300 words or so, which I found really enjoyable, but I did start craving more steady, cohesive information about the narrator's current predicament. The information given is very cryptic and abstract and as I said sometimes this is refreshing and welcome and fascinating and others times it's plain frustrating.

All that said, I almost gave it 5-stars just based on the sheer ambition of it...more
I would give this zero stars if I could. This is the worst book I've had the misfortune of attempting to read in 5 or 10 years. I normally can get myself to read any book that we read in my bookclub, just so that I can follow the conversation, but this book was unreadable. There is absolutely nothing engaging about it. The main character is insane, and you know what would be really cool--? if the disorganized structure and random meandering of the novel reflected her lack of sanity..? so awesome...more
Latanya Mcqueen
With Amy Hempel-esque humor, this epistemological novel tells the story about Money Breton and the ridiculous and tragic events in her life. Her daughter is a heroin addict, her son is in some sort of protection program after being the victim of a rape crime. Money herself has a shit job in television, and she also struggles with ADD, which I assume is the reason for the brief snippets of thoughts and digressions that structure the novel. This is a witty and tragic examination of a woman whose l...more
Feb 09, 2014 Paul rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2010, 2014
9 February 2014: Good. This sort of thing seems really easy to do, but it isn’t, and Robison does it really well here. Even SHE can’t really imitate it, as she tried to in One DOA. Anyway though, I’d read this before and wanted to again for insight into fictional Hollywood, but there isn’t a ton. By which I only mean I think it’s unfair to compare this to Play it as it Lays. I also don’t think it’s quite as good as PIAIL, but that’s not really here nor there. Somehow she turns this into a cohesi...more
I left this book on a plane with 30 pages left and paid way too much money for a hardcover replacement. The main character is middle-aged, severely ADD, writer who's life isn't turning out anything like she'd hoped. The various plot elements range from mildly depressing to downright f***ed up, but in spite of that, the book is absolutely hilarious. The voice of the main character is fantastic-- witty and sarcastic and inexplicably reassuring. The format of the book-- a couple hundred short disjo...more
This is a collection of several hundred little chapters, each one of which propels the narrator's catastrophe of a life. Her son appears to have been raped; her daughter is a drug-addict; she has had several collapsed marriages; she loves her children to distraction; she is suspicious and somewhat supercilious about her younger lover; she goes on long pointless drives across the southern states of the US; her scriptwriter job is going nowhere. It is a cleverly written book with a wonderful gift...more
John Gentry
i was told to read this by my former alcholic roomate. she said it was amazing and her favorite book, she let me borrow her copy which i still have. i read the first half in one night (its an easy read) then finished the second over a period of time. i really enjoyed it at first, its funny, insightful, and her style is interesting to say the least. but the further i got into the book the less interested i became. wheres the plot, wheres the plot? i eventually became annoyed with it. when finally...more
this book was filled with so many perfect, sharp, devastating (and devastatingly funny) 12 or 30-word bursts i couldn't help but fall in love with it, but i wish i'dve taken on its collection of bite-sized bursts in one, three-hour sitting.

Instead over a couple weeks what through-line there is in this book involving the troubled son, daughter and relationships remained kinda elusive. Still, the way she captured the internal monologue of Money was pretty remarkable, and even though it ended up s...more
"I should turn back. Florida is a horrible toilet. There are a zillion snakes woven into this road and those clouds over there mean God's coming."

A novel written in short scenes (some just a paragraph) could easily go awry, but her wit, sharp eye & taut styling carry the narrative. At first you're simply enjoying the easily-digestible scenes about her job as a screenwriter & her dim-witted beau but the end chapters take us somewhere else entirely.

Bonus points for being a local writer and...more
Rebecca Stimpson
okay, i didn't actually take 7 months to read this, contrary to what my goodreads dealie says. i love mary robison because, with her books, i'm not awkwardly aware of the machinations of plot the way that i usually am with whatever i read, plus her style, loosely defined, is sort of a more clever version of how my brain works. plus she makes me guffaw. i reread her sentences because they are pure pleasure-center targetry for me. to paraphrase my semiotics-obsessed 10th grade english teacher, thi...more
This one is just okay, for me. The most interesting part is the craft of the book.
Mar 03, 2011 Christina rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Christina by: Rosecrans Baldwin on The Millions "Year in Reading" 2010
Shelves: read-in-2011
The first "meh" reading experience of 2011. I just couldn't get into this book, a collection of short diary-like vignettes from the life of an ADD screenwriter. I think if I'd read this over a day or a weekend I may have liked it better. Since there's no real plot thread to speak of, it's kind of a difficult book to keep coming back to; there's nothing really happening, so you're not in any rush to return to it. Well-written but not the type of book I especially enjoy.
I could tell how strangely smart this book was, and there were threads of plot, but for me they were as tangled as the knitting the main character (her name is "Money"? When was I supposed to find that out?) tries unsuccessfully to begin. It definitely feels more like some awful version of real life than most novels do, but it was really really weird. And still oddly compelling. Not sure what to think. Now I want to read a sort of normal story.
My first book by this author. Yes, the wit is sharp-edged and I appreciate that -- in fact, that's what kept me reading to the end. But it's like reading someone's "therapy journal" -- a bit too stream-of-conciousness and lacking in plot for my tastes. There's some obvious structure and progression, but all those snippets just come off too fractured to be called a novel. (Checking the cover to be sure: yes, it is labeled "A Novel".)
I loved, loved, loved this book on a sentence by sentence/ section by section level...but as a whole, I didn't feel like the style of narration - short clipped sections where each one feels as important/ weighty as the next - left much room for the novel to build to a climax.

That being said, Robison is a writer whose prose style I really admire and whose work I come back to anytime I'm looking for a creative jump-start.
Wholly original, and at times hilarious and heartbreaking, this book has stayed with me for all the years since I've read it...and not just in the "back of my head" kind of way; it dismantled the way that I think and put all that gray matter back together again in a far more deconstructed, interesting way. I should really think harder about what I'm going to write in these reviews before I start.
Michael Wells
I've been in love with this book since I first opened it almost ten years ago. Robison is a magnificent writer - humane, clever, funny, devestating. The book is written in snippets - the narrator's life is falling apart - and I would laugh out loud one second and gasp in astonisment the next. Bold, unique, beautiful, smart, amazing. She writes like an angel gone mad.
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Mary Robison is an American short story writer and novelist. She has published four collections of stories, and four novels, including her 2001 novel Why Did I Ever, winner of the 2001 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for fiction. Her most recent novel, released in 2009, is One D.O.A., One on the Way. She has been categorized as a founding "minimalist" writer along with authors such as Amy Hempel, Fre...more
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One D.O.A., One on the Way Tell Me 30 Stories Amateurs Guide to Night Oh! (Nonpareil Book, 50.) Subtraction

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“Something else that makes me angry is that I got too old to prostitute myself. I wasn't going to anyway but it was there, it was my Z plan.” 4 likes
“You Can Fly But Your Body Can't

My first seat was in first class between Penny and Belinda. Before I poured Rémy Martin down my throat and had to come see what the folks back here think of things.


'Cool out, you know, I didn't mean it, I don't really hate you,' I hear someone say.
While, over the intercom, the pilot jabbers. He's explaining that some dysfunction, once we're on the ground, can be easily fixed with a pin. I don't know, at that point, how much any of us will care. Maybe I'm drunk, but seems like they could give the plane to the Arabs once we've all made our connecting flights.


The beer nuts just served to me in a cello packet are the most delicious food I've ever tasted in my life.
Back at Dallas-Fort Worth I put an Otis Redding CD into my player and I doubt I'll ever have a reason to take it out.
Through the window, trigonometry, under a silky pink sky.”
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