**spoiler alert** Mixed feelings about this memoir of addiction. Cat Marnell can write, I'll give her that. She has narrative voice for days. And she**spoiler alert** Mixed feelings about this memoir of addiction. Cat Marnell can write, I'll give her that. She has narrative voice for days. And she tells great stories, in incredibly vivid prose - from her entitled, privileged, emotionally empty childhood with a father who sent her sister away to a mental institution for being defiant; to elite prep schools, where she spiraled into drug addiction and destructive behavior, to a very very ((very)) long stint in the world of Manhattan magazines. She writes with equal attention to life behind the scenes in the elite world of Condé Nast, to the incredibly dark underbelly of prolonged addiction. She is graphic about both elite beauty trips to Italy and drug addicted violent boyfriends who shoot heroin with her on Thanksgiving.
The challenge with the book is, I imagine, the challenge of living or working with Cat Marnell. It's a cycle that never stops: achievement, addiction, collapse, rehab, repeat. Repeat. Repeat. She doesn't seem to learn, or change, or grow. And it gets almost as exhausting to read as it must have been to live.
There's an interesting arc at the end, as Cat becomes famous for writing openly about her drug use, profiled by New York magazine and the NYT. Her addiction and her abilities and her ambition become so fused, they can hardly be teased apart.
And then...SPOILER ALERT...the book ends. For some reason, she completely skips over her last cycle of achievement (a book deal), addiction (heroin overdose), rehab (this time in Singapore), dealing with all of that in a hastily written afterword. In the afterword it appears that she's hit a sort of stasis with her addiction, where she's using, but not too much. She's not in recovery, but she's not out of control. It's a complicated ending, and she herself does not seem clear on where she stands. Which may very well be the point. But then...what was the memoir about? A depiction of drug use and magazine life? It feels a little unfocused, in the end. And more than a bit exhausting. But Cat Marnell is a gifted writer. I hope she finds her way. ...more
I like Lakoff's work, but this book feels a little out of date, and a bit like one idea (conservatives prefer paternalistic values, progressives nurtuI like Lakoff's work, but this book feels a little out of date, and a bit like one idea (conservatives prefer paternalistic values, progressives nurturing ones) argued over and over. I think the point about framing our debates around values rather than information is essential. But I also think it's fairly well known at this point. I'd be interested to see what Lakoff does next, as he seems to be experiencing a bit of a Renaissance. ...more
Absolutely brilliant. Funny, smart, heartbreaking, insightful, evocative, personal...it deserves every single accolade and more. Destined to be a clasAbsolutely brilliant. Funny, smart, heartbreaking, insightful, evocative, personal...it deserves every single accolade and more. Destined to be a classic a la Catcher in the Rye, read in classrooms for generations to come. I can't imagine reading a better book this year. Ms. Thomas has created an important work of literature that also happens to be impossible to put down....more
Mindy Kaling meets West Wing; a spunky-girl version of West Wing, featuring Alyssa Mastromonaco, who started as an intern for Bernie Sanders, and roseMindy Kaling meets West Wing; a spunky-girl version of West Wing, featuring Alyssa Mastromonaco, who started as an intern for Bernie Sanders, and rose to become the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations in Obama's White House. She was with Obama from his early days on the Senate, and as he rose through the ranks, she rose with him. Her stories of what it takes to run the White House -- not the policy wonk stuff, but her purview, the day-to-day, get-things-done operational stuff - are fascinating. She's friends with Mindy Kaling and wanted to model her book on Mindy's; a mixture of stories from her life with tips on "how to make it" for young people, especially women, who want to go into politics. I listened to it on Audible and while her reading voice isn't outstanding, the book was a terrific listen.
I have two small criticisms. I actually wish there had been more behind-the-scenes; it was crazy to hear how she went from basically being a copy girl to being one of the most powerful women in government, but I didn't get a lot of insight into how she made that shift. It seemed to shift between two modes: scrappy young nobody with a dream, and powerful accomplished woman with IBS. I would have loved more of a sense of how she made the shift, and even more insight into day to day life. That stuff was absolutely fascinating and would make a great, great, great TV show. My only other small criticism is that she took a lot of breaks to impart life wisdom; like Mindy and Tina Fey both did in their books, but she did it much more frequently, and the advice was a bit generic (make lists! be resilient!). I think she was trying to hard to make this an advice book, and thought she had to write a lot of advice. But frankly, her points were made much better just from telling her stories, without what felt like a lot of commercial interruptions. Plus, since I'm (to put it mildly) not a 20 year old trying to figure out what to do for a living, reading long pieces on how I can be successful if I make lists, made the book feel less like it was for me. When the truth is, I really liked it, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in the day to day life of politics, or interesting careers, or slightly neurotic and incredibly successful young women. ...more
Elena has had a cursed life, with nothing but problems since she was a child. An accidental murderess at the age of 10, driving her mother to abandonElena has had a cursed life, with nothing but problems since she was a child. An accidental murderess at the age of 10, driving her mother to abandon her, fleeing from one spot to the next with a distant father who holds her responsible for her family's disintegration, now pregnant by a deadbeat, deadend boyfriend. Despondent and without hope, she flees to the tiny town of Hat Creek, Colorado, a near-gone mining town populated by the lost and lonely, to babysit for two children with a part-time father and a deceased mother. Elena knows life is meaningless, and her only task is to figure out how to come to terms with that truth. Or is it?
Among the Lesser Gods is the story of one summer in a small mining community in 1978; the story of how one young woman comes to understand the truth of life, in all its curses and blessings. The pace is a bit slow, at times, like life in the small town itself, but the writing is gorgeous and every character is fully realized. There are some nice plot twists to keep the story moving -- Elena realizes as the story begins that a local town legend about the miner's daughter who haunts the town is, in fact, a story from Elena's own past; and as she grows closer to the town's residents, she begins to understand that curses and secrets and blessings are not just hers to bear, but shared burdens that are the cost of life itself.
The details of her life that summer -- how she learns to care for two troubled children and in so doing how to heal herself; how she forms gradual connections with her grandmother, a local rancher, the two kids and their odd father, the larger-than-life next door neighbor -- are all beautifully told. A lovely story, with hope at its core, and a real pleasure to read.