The Unspeakable and Other Subjects of Discussion
by Meghan Daum
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
As someone who is new to Meghan Daum’s writing, The Unspeakable made me feel as if I were reading the Facebook statuses of a close friend who, like me, is in her 40s and who is also trying to make sense of some of the same feelings, struggles, and experiences that accompany this stage of one’s life.
“Now that I am almost never the youngest person in any room I realize that what I miss most about those times is the very thing that drove me so mad back when I was living in them. What I miss is the feeling that nothing has started yet, that the future towers over the past, that the present is merely a planning phase for the gleaming architecture that will make up the rest of my life. But what I forget is the loneliness of all that. If everything is ahead then nothing is behind. You have no ballast. You have no tailwinds either. You hardly ever knew what to do, because you’ve hardly done anything. I guess this is why wisdom is supposed to be the consolation prize of aging. It’s supposed to give us better things to do than stand around and watch in disbelief as the past casts long shadows over the future.”
The above passage is from “Not What It Used to Be,” the essay in this collection that most resonated with me. This is exactly where I am right now in my own life, wrestling with this sense that our best days are behind us in terms of earning potential, unfulfilled goals, and the decisions and chance accidents alike that alter the trajectory of one’s life.
As with most collections, there are some essays that I connected with more than others. (Among them: “The Best Possible Experience,” “Difference Maker,” and “Diary of a Coma,” which repeats some material from the first entry, “Matricide.”) I admit to skipping over the essay about her dog simply because I’m not a dog person and reading about how much other people love their dogs isn’t my thing.
That said, The Unspeakable is a solid collection of well-written, often humorous essays that earns Meghan Daum a spot among our best contemporary essayists.
I’m participating in #WeekOfReviews hosted by Estella’s Revenge.
This is post #18 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project.