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Can You Tolerate This?

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  540 ratings  ·  80 reviews
Can You Tolerate This? is a collection of twenty-one personal essays by Ashleigh Young. In this spirited and singular book, Young roams freely from preoccupation to preoccupation – Hamilton’s 90s music scene, family histories, a boy with a rare skeletal disease, a stone-collecting French postman, a desire for impossible physical transformation – trying to find some measure ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published August 11th 2016 by Victoria University Press
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Aug 10, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc, non-fiction
This was… highly uneven. I thought the second half worked a lot better than the first (there were some really amazing essays there) but if I hadn’t had a review copy of this, I don’t think I would have even gotten that far. The first third of the book was particularly difficult to get into.

Ashleigh Young wrote essays on a variety of topics, often semi auto-biographical in nature but always considering other perspectives as well and in theory I should have adored this. There is a fairly long
Mar 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes, when I love a book so much, I find it so hard to coherently articulate the whys and the hows. The way that some of my fave authors can do, this essay collection makes me feel a certain type of way. It's hard to say exactly what, but probably a combination of familiar, nostalgic, piercing, human, et al.

It's the way I can happily sink into a Murakami or Gaiman novel and think ahh, and feel the familiar feels I feel as I read and love what I'm reading. Then when I finish, and at a loss
Tamsien West (Babbling Books)
Brilliant, surprising and layered collection on interwoven memoir, historical oddity and observation. For me this book is always going to defy categorization, and I'm struggling to articulate why I liked it so much. But it was beautifully written and filled with sharp observations about life, family and self, and that's enough for me to know it's going to be a favourite I recommend whenever I find the right person.
Helen Heath
Mar 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Do believe the hype! Blimmin genius. Beautiful, thought provoking and clever. Highly recommended.
Sep 10, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars

I think Can You Tolerate This? worked best when author Young's family members - father, mother, older brothers JP and Neil, and even the nameless pet dog - and childhood memories were the main focus in some of twenty essays in this collection. For whatever reason those kept my interest more than many of the others. (Maybe the unique New Zealand setting also had something to do with it.)

However - when she occasionally speaks of her own later experiences - there were a few other stories
Nov 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like most collections of essays,Can You Tolerate This?is a book to dip into from time to time, but I’ve chosen to write about ‘Big Red, the longest essay in the collection because it’s so much about something I never had: brothers.Perhaps the essay is as much about being the youngest, observing the progress of older siblings in the world, but brothers seem to do things differently. In particular, there’s the problem of negotiating and interpreting the silence of the adolescent male.
The ‘Big Red’
Aug 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
It is a long time since I read a book of essays, reading this made me realise that I have been missing out and that I should do far more reading of shorter forms of writing. Ashleigh Young writes the most beautiful sentences, they are deceptively simple. She draws you in and had me reading story after story, although they aren't really stories they are musings and wonderings and reflections. She examines her family and her past. Musings on her childhood anxieties and siblings are so personal and ...more
Can You Tolerate This? is the debut essay collection from New Zealand author Ashleigh Young, and contains a mixture of more general non-fiction pieces and personal essays.

I really hoped I'd love this, but I only liked the general/historical non-fiction essays; these included pieces on Ferdinand Cheval, Katherine Mansfield and hikikomori. Unfortunately the personal essays were kind of vague and inconsistent, with many focusing on Young's body - her body hair, her back (we accompany her on a
Jaclyn Crupi
I did not respond to these essays the way most people seemed to have. For me they were quite flat and amateurish. Not sure why they failed to resonate with me.
Emma McCleary
Nov 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
It’s taken me almost 1.5 years to read this because it’s been my car book and increasingly my daughter doesn’t nap in the car. When she does - and I’m properly caffeinated - I bring out my tatty copy from down the side of the seat and tuck in.

Such a rich, meaningful, heartbreaking and cosy collection. It didn’t matter if I was minutes or months between stories; each was its own reward with its vivid imagery and collected memories. A real treat.
Essays are not something that I would normally read, but this book came highly recommended from a friend. The essays are contemplative and based on the author's own experiences and musings, with a distinct New Zealand flavour. But it was the quality of the writing that really won me over. A pleasure to read and often thought provoking.
Cátia Vieira
Why should you read this book?
I really wanted to love Can You Tolerate This? by Ashleigh Young. I mean, it was perfect for me! It’s an essay collection about youth, ambition, anxiety, the challenges of personal transformation and disappointment! It sounds right up my alley, right? Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to connect to Young’s universe.

Why? I think that Can You Tolerate This? is a very uneven book. Some essays were interesting to read, namely one about body hair. But I didn’t respond to most
Mar 11, 2018 rated it really liked it

“I am so puffed that it feels like my lungs have turned into a pair of excited dogs and they are jumping up and down, trying to feed on the air. My lungs paw and salivate at the air, tearing bits out of it like stuffing.”

There was a lot of hype and hope surrounding this collection when it first came out in New Zealand a couple of years ago, and deservedly so. There are some wonderful stories in here, and this was a thoroughly absorbing and varied collection of essays that really tapped into some
Carolyn DeCarlo
Feb 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
My edition of Ashleigh Young's essay collection is labelled as "personal essays," which I've heard later was dropped to just "essays." I think the setup and expectation for the truly "personal" was perhaps a mistake that becomes obvious from a read of the first essay, from which Ashleigh is entirely absent as a character or narrative force. Yes, some of the essays to come from this collection are personal in nature; but none were so emotional, so internal, so self-revelatory as to warrant the ...more
Susie Anderson
Nov 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I loved the small town feeling of this. It opened up a part of New Zealand for me that seems overlooked in our hurry to explore its natural stunning beauty. And I loved the personal narratives intersecting with the historical as in the Katherine Mansfield piece. Drawing connections between every day back to the every day of people who were just other people in another time. Drawing out the fleeting moment in an eloquent way. The pace of the collection overall was really satisfying. This memoir ...more
Emily Fu
Jul 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A lovely summer read. Evocative, comforting, intelligent writing. Ashleigh's stories cover her upbringing in New Zealand, her family, the human body, appointments at the chiropractor, and historical vignettes. Key themes are place, isolation, and human limitations, but this is not at all a miserable book! I came out the other end feeling uplifted and less alone. Ashleigh makes New Zealand, a place far away from me, feel familiar. She writes with humor and so much heart, always searching for ...more
Sep 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don’t normally read essay collections, but MAN, THIS COLLECTION quickly and quietly knocked me off my feet. The essays were beautiful in a gentle, clever, and thought-provoking way. I loved Young’s writing — its flow and poetry — and so many of the pieces felt so personally relatable (I also love the blend of the personal with references to historic people/events/places, and just all the different subject references that essays allow for). Favourites include: “Witches”, “The Te Kuiti ...more
Caroline Barron_Author
May 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"The beach belonged to us in a way that no place has belonged to us since. A city or a town cannot belong to us. We have decided never to go back to this beach because it will have changed beyond memory, and this will be distressing: or it will be empty and this will be worse. The lagoon gone, signposts now only posts, cabins lifted away to reveal crab grass threadbare in the sand. The sea replaced with a thinning tarpaulin held down by rocks." - page 15.

Beautiful. Insightful. Vulnerable.
Ashley Lamont
May 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is the first book of essays I have ever read and I will look for more. This collection is superb. So many beautifully written lines (for example- describing a glider taking off "...and the ground came unstuck and fell away") - lovely.

After reading the essay on Cheval, I googled him and shared the results with my team at work.

After reading "The Te Kuiti Underground" I immediately went and bought The White Album (I did have it out from the library, but it skipped due to over use).

Basically -
Stephen Barker
Feb 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Marvellous writing. Whether there is a little too much of the 'Personal' vs the 'other' in these essays, I'm not sure. Perhaps the balance could have been more even? Brave, pretty compelling and mostly keeps away from the self-indulgence that can mar autobiography and memoir. Just looked up Ferdinand Cheval on Wikipedia (need to see the images to fully understand)... an extraordinary story!
May 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
It took me a while to get into this and the balance between historical essays and personal essays (and I liked the personal essays much more) but oh boy once I got into it, I got into it. It is beautiful and lyrical, discussing pain and bodies and minds and humanity and the narratives we create for ourselves to get through the day. Would strongly recommend when it comes out!!!!!!!
Apr 11, 2017 added it
Gentle narration, even when the characters are in difficult situations.
I like how Young writes herself as a character/lens in these stories; it is empathetic/earnest but there is a larger curiosity that comes through as well.
I know that this is all vague but I really enjoyed reading this. A great variety of stories and people and musings.
Heather Bassett
Jul 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Worth the hype - I didn't expect a book of 'personal essays' to be such a page turner
Simon Sweetman
Nov 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully funny - intimate stories of family and self. Really great writing. Funny, journalistic, poetic...all the styles and skills on display.
I couldn't connect with these essays at all. I've been reading a lot of essays recently, and I really love seeking out new voices and reading various kinds of essay collections that do different things, that explore the personal, political, historical. This collection is squarely on the personal side, but I just couldn't put on finger on the heart of it. Young doesn't delve deeply into anything; the essays felt more like simple recitations of memories than complicated, invigorating, or innovate ...more
Apr 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
Finished: 14.04.2019
Genre: essays (personal)
Rating: A+++++
Young New Zealand author...
Winner of prestigious award 2017
Yale University Windham Campbell prize $230.000!
Congratulations....award is well deserved!

My Thoughts

Jaclyn (sixminutesforme)
DNF at 50% - this is one I’d really expected to fall in love with after reading so many rave reviews, but something about it just didn’t click for me. Alone, each of the essays were reflective and nostalgic, but together they didn’t feel cohesive for me and I wasn’t compelled to continue reading. Putting aside for now.
Apr 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book made me feel less alone in the world.
Mar 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
I had read some articles on this writer, and her birthplace, Te Kuiti, is significant to my whanau, so I decided to seek out her work. Thoughtful, and intimately personal essays , but familiar and relatable at the same time. Particularly liked her detailed, unashamedly matter-of-fact essay on yoga and her eating disorder. Her musing on working at Katherine Mansfield’s birthplace was subtly humorous, and Unveiling was powerful in its simple, snapshot quality, and was immediately understood and ...more
Sarah Paolantonio
Oct 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was so refreshing to pick up a new collection of essays after the slog of books I've been wading through. Ashleigh Young's writing is precise and dense, even though her essays are (for the most part) short and sweet. Throughout she contemplates body hair, flying, seeing, her brothers and family, and of course the title essay ended up being my favorite.

Can You Tolerate This? is a great second person essay (which I usually have an aversion to) about her relationship to her chiropractor and
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