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The Unspeakable: And Other Subjects of…
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The Unspeakable: And Other Subjects of Discussion

by Meghan Daum

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The Unspeakable falls into that category of book that I do not trust myself to rate because I find Daum's take on the world so utterly relate-able. It is humbling to find out that (what you considered) your particular brand of antisentimentalism is more likely the result of your culturo-historical context than of your own brilliant particularity. Funny, sharp & occasionally tender; recommended especially to what Daum calls "phantom dykes," the hetero-women who resist pop-culture's idea of the "feminine," and instead venture to forge their own "authentic" identities. I don't exactly know what authenticity means to Daum, but it seems close to Maggie Nelson's "sodomitic mother," i.e. a woman who always exceeds/overflows her societally structured roles. ( )
  reganrule | Oct 24, 2017 |
I mean not five star like Moby Dick five star but goddamn if there isn't some real pathos and some real howlers. Soft spot for the Joni Mitchell essay slash leitmotif. Also, moms. Also, dogs. ( )
  benjaminsiegel | Jul 30, 2016 |
So many things to say. First, this might as well have been a better version of myself who wrote this book. The author and I differ in a number of 'cosmetic' ways: five years age difference, where we grew up and where we live, our pets, our marital status, and we differ in a big way about sensitivity and emotion and how we choose how they effect us, however nearly everything resonated. Articulation of many issues and thoughts and experiences. I need to go back to highlight and quote. ( )
  ShelBeck | Feb 11, 2016 |
There are a few things I have in common with Meghan Daum that I've never known another person to share, at least not to the same degree (and they're things about which degree really matters). Most of her essays contain some opinions that I find obnoxious—like the many actually sexist comments and assumptions that pepper "Honorary Dyke"—so I can't just point to any of them as wholly representative of how I feel. But it's really exciting to hear someone else express ideas I've always felt alone in thinking. I wrote a whole ridiculously long essay of my own about it, but I decided to post it elsewhere and just include the link here for anyone who wants to follow it.
  mirikayla | Feb 8, 2016 |
After the first essay, on Daum's difficult relationship with her mother and how it played out during her mother's death from cancer, I had this down as a 5-star book. It's sharp, moving, self-critical and beautifully written. There are other excellent essays in the book, but nothing quite lives up to the gut punch of the first. Still, it's a great book, only partly spoiled by a strangely misguided essay entitled 'honorary dyke', which feels appropriative and poorly thought through. I'm still going to chase down Daum's first book of essays - I was really impressed by a lot of this. ( )
  mjlivi | Feb 2, 2016 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374280444, Hardcover)

A master of the personal essay candidly explores love, death, and the counterfeit rituals of American life

In her celebrated 2001 collection, My Misspent Youth, Meghan Daum offered a bold, witty, defining account of the artistic ambitions, financial anxieties, and mixed emotions of her generation. The Unspeakable is an equally bold and witty, but also a sadder and wiser, report from early middle age.
     It’s a report tempered by hard times. In “Matricide,” Daum unflinchingly describes a parent’s death and the uncomfortable emotions it provokes; and in “Diary of a Coma” she relates her own journey to the twilight of the mind. But Daum also operates in a comic register. With perfect precision, she reveals the absurdities of the marriage-industrial complex, of the New Age dating market, and of the peculiar habits of the young and digital. Elsewhere, she writes searchingly about cultural nostalgia, Joni Mitchell, and the alternating heartbreak and liberation of choosing not to have children.
     Combining the piercing insight of Joan Didion with a warm humor reminiscent of Nora Ephron, Daum dissects our culture’s most dangerous illusions, blind spots, and sentimentalities while retaining her own joy and compassion. Through it all, she dramatizes the search for an authentic self in a world where achieving an identity is never simple and never complete.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:19 -0400)

"A master of the personal essay candidly explores love, death, and the counterfeit rituals of American life In her celebrated 2001 collection, My Misspent Youth, Meghan Daum offered a bold, witty, defining account of the artistic ambitions, financial anxieties, and mixed emotions of her generation. The Unspeakable is an equally bold and witty, but also a sadder and wiser, report from early middle age. It's a report tempered by hard times. In "Matricide," Daum unflinchingly describes a parent's death and the uncomfortable emotions it provokes; and in "Diary of a Coma" she relates her own journey to the twilight of the mind. But Daum also operates in a comic register. With perfect precision, she reveals the absurdities of the marriage-industrial complex, of the New Age dating market, and of the peculiar habits of the young and digital. Elsewhere, she writes searchingly about cultural nostalgia, Joni Mitchell, and the alternating heartbreak and liberation of choosing not to have children. Combining the piercing insight of Joan Didion with a warm humor reminiscent of Nora Ephron, Daum dissects our culture's most dangerous illusions, blind spots, and sentimentalities while retaining her own joy and compassion. Through it all, she dramatizes the search for an authentic self in a world where achieving an identity is never simple and never complete"--… (more)

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