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I Can't Complain: (All Too) Personal Essays

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  945 ratings  ·  192 reviews
From the beloved and acclaimed novelist, a collection of witty, moving essays. In her two decades of writing, Elinor Lipman has populated her fictional universe with characters so utterly real that we feel like they’re old friends. Now she shares an even more intimate world with us—her own—in essays that offer a candid, charming take on modern life. Looking back and forgin ...more
Hardcover, 161 pages
Published April 16th 2013 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published January 1st 2013)
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Diana Holquist
Feb 20, 2013 rated it liked it
I love Elinor Lipman's novels. But her "essays"....can I complain? I felt misled on two crucial points.

First, these essays are a compilation of reprints written over decades, and it shows. So ask yourself if you really want to read decades-old Good Housekeeping "Blessings" columns. If you do--great! You'll enjoy these. If not, maybe skip this one.

My second problem with this book is the subtitle, (All Too) Personal Essays. Her mom had a condiment phobia! Her father was perfect (his biggest prob
Jun 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
When I read Elinor Lipman's column about the death of her husband in the NY Times"Modern Love" section, I loved her writing and I knew I wanted to read more. Sensitive and personal (without being maudlin or inappropriate), she wrote with such humor and dignity.

Later, I read a reference to this book, I Can't Complain, in the Times' Book Review. The review was a good one. Between that and the fact that she is a friend of my sister-in-law (they both teach writing at Smith College), I knew I wanted
Roz Warren
Jul 07, 2013 rated it really liked it

Most readers have heard of Nora Roberts, but few have heard of Elinor Lipman, which comes in quite handy if you happen to work in a public library.

When a patron asks me to recommend a good book, I’ll ask,“ Have you read “My Latest Grievance?”

The answer is usually no.

I’ll find it on the shelf, she’ll check it out, smiling, and I’ll have preserved my reputation as that amazing librarian who can always be counted on to conjure up just the right
Penny (Literary Hoarders)
I so enjoy Elinor Lipman! If you need a good palette cleanser, something light and refreshing - you can do no wrong picking up something by her. She's a delight. These essays, read by her, were absolutely wonderful. They put a smile on my face, I paused in reflection and they were just something completely delightful to listen to.

This fits for my #NonfictionNovember and the essays category for the 2018 Reading Women Challenge.
Diane Wilkes
Mar 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I have read all of Lipman's novels and have loved them all. When I discovered she had a book of personal essays in the (publishing) works, I was thrilled. I'm in love with her writer's voice--insouciant, wise, discerning, beautifully humorous. And just as in her fiction, that voice is light, yet powerful in her essays about love (romantic and familial), writing (!), and widowhood.

As a narrator, you get a sense of who Lipman is; in these essays, you get more "facts" about her life--her late husba
Kathryn in FL
I have enjoyed several of Ms. Lipman's fiction to the point of chuckling out loud. I expected that her delightful humor would translate into funny observations on life. I am not sure if I had expectations that were to lofty or if our perspectives on life are just to different. This book just plodded for me. It hearkened me to the commercial Wendy's had in the early 1980's of "where's the beef". Well Ms. Lipman has a lot of "beefs" but none that are tantalizing to me. I gave up about 1/2 through. ...more
Jun 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Not having read any of her books, but now am wanting to hunt them down and read them. Found these essays charming, easy to read, and compelling. This is not a heavy read, but is obviously a deeply personal write on the author’s part. She is sharp, funny, and insightful. I found myself relating to her on a personal level, shedding a tear, and chuckling out loud. I would put that as a successful read....
Nov 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 / 5 stars
Jul 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Love her to pieces! I need more Elinor!!!
I Can’t Complain by Elinor Lipman. Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (April 16, 2013). Essay/nonfiction. Hardcover. ISBN 978-0-547-57620-6.

“Will I blurb a book because its editor implores me charmingly? No. Will I take a stab at it? Yes. When do I decide? I read until something stops me: Clunky sentences. No life. No story. Too much story. Too many italics. Too earnest or pretentious or writerly."
--"Confessions of a Blurb Slut" from I Can't Complain by Elinor Lipman

Elinor Lipman writes wryl
Feb 21, 2017 rated it liked it
This book was fairly entertaining. I loved the chapters where the author talked about her family and her life experiences. My favorite chapter is "I Sleep Around," where she jokes about how sensitive her husband is when he's trying to sleep. She can't even use a book light in bed because of his "transparent eyelids!"
Julie Ekkers
Jun 03, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: essays
I haven't read any of Elinor Lipman's novel, but I know plenty people love them, and after reading this collection of previously-published essays, I can see why. Lipman is candid and funny which is a disarming and endearing combination. These essays reminded me a bit of Anna Quindlin's, but a bit less sentimental--unless Lipman's is writing about her only child and son, Ben, with whom she is obviously enchanted and which is, again, endearing. The essays range in topic from light (writing blurbs ...more
Jul 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Glad I stuck with this one. Lipman's fiction is irresistible, but this book of essays, like many single-author collections (primarily of short stories), seemed it might become monotonous, or worse, cloying: one of the great strengths of all of Lipman's fiction is the smartass note in it, which is missing in the first few essays. Happily (all of her books end up happily, which is, for me, part of their appeal), just as I was getting impatient, I heard the edginess come back into her voice, most n ...more
Jul 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
These essays grew on me as they got more current and a little more serious. Even with her novels, I like the earlier, more meaty ones better than the lighter ones she's been writing recently. The essays about her husband, their relationship, his death, and her life after his death were the best, I thought.
Carolyn Pina
Jun 01, 2016 rated it liked it
A nice collection of essays by Elinor Lipman. I liked her fictional stories, as well. She's a good writer -- she's very amusing.
Aug 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I am not generally a fan of short story collections. My main beef is that I spend time investing in the story only to be cut off and shuttled to a story of an entirely different topic. However, with Elinor Lipman at the helm, I was willing to risk this loss.
To be sure, my initial hesitation was fully realized after the first offering. I wanted to know more about her mother's extreme aversion to condiments. Fortunately, the rest of the collection was engaging enough to pique my interest with each
Apr 05, 2019 rated it liked it
Elinor Lipman has written some wonderful books. Isabel's Bed and The Inn at Lake Devine come to mind as contemporary classics, full of her trademark understated wit and insight.

By contrast, this essay collection comes under the category of just okay. My favorite bit was the part about how important it is to select the right name for one's story characters, and how "Isabel" in the aforementioned novel came to be Isabel because Ms. Lipman wanted a name that reflected her protagonist's warmhearted
Jun 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
I don't really like memoir, yet I read a lot of memoir. Why is that? In this case, I wanted to download another book from the library by an author I had just read, so I wound up with a book of short personal essays. You know why I gave this four stars? I'll tell you: Elinor Lipman is a pro. It is a pleasure to read something that is beautifully put together. She's a little too cheerful to be writing self-reflection. That's why this isn't five stars. It's four because there's a brief for each cha ...more
Barbara J. Malangoni
Jul 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Cart Before the Horse. I've never read one of Ms. Lipman's novels, if you can believe that, but now I plan to do so. I found her essays delightful although just grazing the surface of personal, no "all too" at all. However, I will say that Elinore may have been born a little early in the century (forgive me Ms. Lipman) to feel comfortable airing dirty linen in the ways it is all too chic to do so now. So, I cut her some slack for fathoming she is sharing a lot. I particularly wish her luck w ...more
Nov 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: hardback
3.5* rounded up.

This was a very quick read; a collection of short essays and articles, mostly previously published, but none of which I had read before. Inevitably I enjoyed some more than others; I liked the "predictors of compatibility" listed in "Boy Meets Girl" very much, and the chapter about losing her husband was moving.

I do disagree about the movie version of "Then She Found Me" though - I loved the book and Dwight Willamee was the best thing about it.
Aug 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Found this at a library book sale. A rollicking good read in typical Lipman style. For anyone who used to be a soap fan, start with that one!
These essays remind me of the "HERS" column that ran Thursdays in The New York Times in the 1980s, rotating women who wrote smart & witty, with context and flair. It's the kind of journalism that's vanished in the narcissistic world of look-at-me bloggers.
So what a treat it was to find these essays from Lipman. More please!
Nov 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is about my third or fourth book of Elinor’s and I’ve come to love her personality and spontaneity in these types of books. The beginning was a bit slow but she caught me on the Sex and the City chapter and the part regarding couples. I feel a connection through my living in MA and actually knowing where her mentioned locations are. Look forward to continuing my journey with Elinor.
Feb 16, 2018 rated it liked it
Not the laugh out loud type of humor that I find in her books which I have loved, but reading about aspects of her personal life such as her husband and his eventual ill health, the quirks of her elderly mother, etc. was enjoyable.
Apr 01, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: didn-t-finish
Oh, jeez. I felt like Elinor Lipman's life is just enough more perfect than mine that I felt as if I were being humblebragged to, and the essays were just not funny/insightful enough to make up for that feeling.
Sharon Falduto
Oct 20, 2019 rated it liked it
A collection of essays by the genteel author, about her marriage, her son--she just seems like a lovely lady. And I'm probably the only person who has ever checked out Adam Carolla and Elinor Lipman at the same time.
Nov 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Treps verder (Yiddish) step words.
The Snappy comeback of words you say as you turn to walk away. Best used to rebut a personal sleight or rude comment.

This is the best thing I learned from this novel of short stories.
Chose this randomly from Overdrive and really enjoyed it. I am going to have to read some of Ms. Lipman's fiction now.
Jun 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Quite possibly my favorite nonfiction book of all time. Elinor Lipman is one of my favorite authors anyway, but in this she shows how humorous and brilliant and tender she is in real life. Her marriage mirrored mine in so many ways and I could relate to so much that she wrote.
Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Enjoyable essays of Elinor's life
Madeline Meth
Aug 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Lipman is pleasant as always.
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Elinor Lipman is the author of 11 humorous novels about contemporary American society; essay and short story collections, and a book of rhyming political tweets.. Born and raised in Lowell, Massachusetts, she graduated from Simmons College where she studied journalism. She lives in Manhattan, and received the New England Book award for fiction in 2001. Her first novel, "Then She Found Me," was ada ...more

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