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Scratched: A Memoir of Perfectionism

3.50  ·  Rating details ·  36 ratings  ·  14 reviews
Reading Scratched gave me the feeling of standing very close to a blazing fire. It is that brilliant, that intense, and one of the finest explorations I know of what it means to be a woman and an artist.Sigrid Nunez, author of The Friend and Winner of the National Book Award for Fiction

In a bold and brilliant memoir that reinvents the form, the acclaimed author of the
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published February 25th 2020 by Harper
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Huyen Chip
Professor Tallent was one of my favorite writing professors. It was great reading her memoir and understanding where she came from.
Shannon Pufahl
Oct 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If you read only one book in 2020, make it this one. Scratched is a book so unique, so profound and moving, so precise in both its descriptions of the physical world and the emotions we attached to and draw from that world -- it can only be the work of a singular, brilliant mind. I was deeply moved and changed by this book.


So often a book is described as re-inventing such and such: the novel, the memoir, the essay, the modern conception of truth, the idea of love or fate or childhood. As a
Vincent Scarpa
Aug 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In a word: perfect.
Feb 28, 2020 rated it liked it
This is a deep dive into the authors life and struggles with perfectionism, which is more destructive than many realize. The book is a little difficult to read but there are some excellent insights into the authors issues that kept her from completing and publishing for two decades. Some of the issues hit a little too close to home, but Im glad I gave this a shot. ...more
Cor T
Mar 07, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It feels mean to criticize an author who writes to explain why she couldnt write a book for 22 years due to perfectionism. Part I had such a meandering beginning that I couldnt get my bearings until this sentence: The summer my mother told me the story of how she had not been willing to take me I was nineteen. We learn how the authors in utero scratches marked her as imperfect and that her mother refused to hold her at the hospital as a newborn. Later we get more on this key incident: While she ...more
Kathleen Gray
Feb 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
I find it hard to review memoirs because it feels as though I'm judging someone's life and life choices. That's doubly the case here because this is really the story of how Tallent struggled and continues to struggle with perfectionism, which is more destructive than many realize. Is she blaming her issues on her mother, who refused to hold her immediately after her birth because of a small scratch? Was she imprinted as an infant? Perfectionism took a huge toll on Tallent, who was unable to ...more
Chris Roberts
Feb 26, 2020 rated it did not like it
Memoir as make it stop,
audacious in conceit, the dizzying, dragging minutia,
of a life lived grasping for metaphors.
Mar 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
There's some irony in the fact that I feel myself unable to capture the brilliance of Elizabeth Tallent's Scratched. So I recommend that you read the New York Times review (link at the bottom) which actually does capture it perfectly, and I will go on to describe it imperfectly instead.

I always feel that if a book does not give you want you wanted or expected at all, but manages to give you something much better because of it, it must be a very good book. Scratched definitely belongs in this
B Jones
Mar 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
I've read Elizabeth Tallent's previous short story collection Mendocino Fire and enjoyed it. I had found about this one in advance and pre-ordered it.

This is a different and challenging approach to the memoir format, jumping around in chronology and through time. The first part is interesting, written in a somewhat experimental style about the night of the author's birth from her mother's perspective, how she couldn't hold her newborn baby for 3 days, the baby "scratched" and imperfect looking
Mar 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Reminiscent of Nelsons Argonauts narrative with jumbled time line snippets but mostly chronological, the no quotation dialogue in italics. I guess thats a contemporary immediacy. Brilliance here, and imperfections, but Tallant finally makes peace with being imperfect, letting her guard down , being vulnerable, which she is, painfully so, but only in accepting her imperfections is she finally safe from the world and her self. She stops scratching herself to the bone in the end. Well, I hope. Near ...more
Feb 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
its what i deserve ...more
Mar 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Super fast read! Enjoyed every word
Mar 08, 2020 rated it liked it
An interesting topic for a memoir, although I found the writing style over-embellished for my tastes.

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Elizabeth Tallent's short stories have been published in literary magazines and journals such as The New Yorker, Esquire, Harper's Magazine, The Threepenny Review, and North American Review, and her stories have been reprinted in the O. Henry Prize Stories, Best American Short Stories, and Pushcart Prize collections.

She has taught literature and creative writing at the University of California,

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