In the intro, editor Steve Almond says of Dear Sugar author Cheryl Strayed, "she understands that attention is the first and final act of love," which...moreIn the intro, editor Steve Almond says of Dear Sugar author Cheryl Strayed, "she understands that attention is the first and final act of love," which is beautiful and true and really says all you need to know about this book, a compilation of Strayed's Dear Sugar columns for The Rumpus.
Strayed's advice isn't judge-y, she's not interested in merely building advice seekers' self-esteem, she's interested in truth. She tells one wannabe writer who feels defeated at 26 despite not having written much, "the only way you'll find out if you 'have it in you' is to get to work and see if you do."
Her advice is practical, useful, things you may just find applying to your own life, even if the exact situations don't.
So many lines stayed with me, like this one: "Don't surrender all your joy for an idea you used to have about yourself that isn't true anymore." Or, well there are so many ors. It's a beautiful book, whether you're a fan of advice columns or not. Read it.(less)
I'm giving this four stars, but more for Catherine the Great than for the book itself. Catherine is fascinating. Like most 18th-century royalty, she w...moreI'm giving this four stars, but more for Catherine the Great than for the book itself. Catherine is fascinating. Like most 18th-century royalty, she was birthed and raised to be a princess or better and as a result is married off by an ambitious parent into an unhappy marriage. But, it's Russia, so kind of more OK with certain things than other royal houses. For example: when Catherine's husband Peter the III refuses to sleep with her to produce an heir, Catherine is presented with a choice of lovers to get the job done. The baby, Paul, is presented as if it's Peter's, though everyone including Emperer Elizabeth, knows the truth. Appearance of birthright is what matters here.
When Catherine takes the throne, she is at first an idealist monarch, believing in the writings of Montaigne about an enlightened autocracy, working to free the serfs, and keeping a correspondence with Diderot and Voltaire. That said, there's a dimension missing here, maybe it's Catherine and who she was as a woman.
There's so much material Massie covers, but I felt like more could have been explored, or less explored and the important points delved into deeper. And at times, the writing is passive and written as if Massie is merely recapping for us the story of Catherine for a school history report, albeit, a long, long recap that took me two weeks to read. I'm not sure if lack of material was the problem or if he just needed an editor to step in and say "tell me more about this!" In one chapter, when he's writing about Catherine from her diary entries, he breaks off the chapter in the middle of the story. Partly, yes, because Catherine also ends her diary at this point, but were there no other documents or materials to use to fill in the blanks? The reader isn't told.
Catherine is fascinating, I guess my biggest complaint is that I wanted more details. (less)