Tag Archives: Meghan Daum

Book Review: The Unspeakable and Other Subjects of Discussion, by Meghan Daum (18/99)

The UnspeakableThe Unspeakable and Other Subjects of Discussion
by Meghan Daum 
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
2014
244 pages

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.

Reviewathon

This is post #18 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project. 

99 Days of Summer Blogging

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sunday salon: summer’s end

The Sunday Salon

To say we (as in, our family) are dealing with a difficult transition brought on by the unofficial end of summer to the forced beginning of fall is …well, a bit of an understatement. Anxiety is always heightened as August segues into September, what with a new school year and all the adjustments that brings, but the past 10 days have brought something entirely different.

It’s the autism and yet it isn’t the autism. There are limits to what I can say in this space, which is in direct contrast to what I want to say. Most of this is not entirely my story to tell. This is new, unknown, and scary territory.

I’m finding myself in need of a step back from the outside world and have prescribed a modified Facebook break for myself for this holiday weekend and possibly beyond. I tend to check Facebook somewhat obsessively, and I’m trying to limit myself to twice a day.

Reading
I noticed that quite a few books in my immediate to-be-read queue were rather dark, which is not unusual for me but also not what I can handle right now. (Yes, I’m looking at you, A Little Life.) Back to the library they went.

Rising StrongWhile at the library yesterday with The Girl, Brene Brown’s new book Rising Strong was prominent on the Nonfiction Bestsellers table. I hadn’t noticed it earlier in the week, so I took that as a sign of sorts that I should probably grab it despite having never read Brene Brown and being only slightly familiar with her work. Enough people are devotees of hers that I figured she might be helpful for me to read right now.

(UPDATE: Rising Strong is going to be a DNF, as I’m finding this too jargonish and … well, lacking anything I didn’t already kind of know. Perhaps Brene Brown isn’t for me or maybe this wasn’t the right book to start with.) 

Go Set a Watchman – the Harper Lee novel that is either much-celebrated or a representative of elder abuse, depending on your viewpoint – was among my planned reads for this blessedly long weekend. Alas, I made it through only two chapters last night before declaring this a DNF. I’ll probably do a longer post with my thoughts on this, which I approached with some skepticism and an open mind (at least I’d like to think so).  Suffice it to say that 43 pages was enough to put me solidly in the “this should never have been published” camp.

The UnspeakableThis week I finished The Unspeakable by Meghan Daum. Several of these essays in this collection resonated with me, particularly “The Best Possible Experience,” “Not What It Used to Be,” and “Difference Maker” – all of which best fit the theme of “the unspeakable thoughts many of us harbor…and the unspeakable acts that teach no easy lessons and therefore are elbowed out of sight.” (pg. 5-6)

Listening
Wonderful TownMy attention span for audio books is similarly limited; I’m listening almost entirely to podcasts these days. That said, I’m also listening to Wonderful Town: New York Stories from The New Yorker, which has been on my TBR forever. I’m finding this to be a fantastic collection for filling in the gaps with authors and stories that I probably should have read by now.  The order of the stories presented on audio doesn’t match up with the print edition, though. So far I’ve listened to “Poor Visitor” by Jamaica Kincaid; “The Five-Forty-Eight” by John Cheever (another author on my list I need to read more of); and “The Whore of Mensa” by Woody Allen, which gave me a much-needed laugh.

Learning
Aside from the life lessons these dark days are teaching me, I finished my first MOOC, “Literature of the Country House” through the University of Sheffield and am now immersed in “Plagues, Witches, and War: The World of Historical Fiction” from the University of Virginia. One of the readings is The Physick of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe, which fits perfectly with the 10th annual R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril challenge being hosted this year by The Estella Society. I’m planning to sign up again, as I do every year.

Hope you’re having a good Sunday – and if you’re in the States, hopefully it is part of a three-day weekend.

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Podcast of the Week: Episode 1, The Intro Post

Apple iPhone 6 - PDI

Photo Credit: Public Domain Archive; click through for source

 

Even though they’ve been around in some form or another for decades, suddenly I’ve discovered and gotten instantly addicted to podcasts. Within the past two weeks, I’ve gone from having no clue how to listen to one to subscribing to nearly 100 of them.

I’ve been curious about them for awhile, but it wasn’t until I was reading some Facebook updates after a local writers’ get-together that I’d missed (where podcasts were apparently a hot topic) that I thought this might be something I’d be interested in. These writers are very much in the know, super-intellectual and have their collective pulse on all things hip, cool, and especially literary.

I remembered that I had downloaded a podcast-listening app on my phone (at least that’s what I thought it did) so I played around with it. So far, so good … but it seemed clunky and then a podcast started stopping in mid-stream. And then another didn’t even start. And some downloads took longer than I expected. And then Heather of Capricious Reader wrote this post about Pocket Cast. Sold on the spot. Her recommendation was good enough for me.

She also compiled this fantastic list of bookish podcasts and then I knew there was no turning back.

Now I’m a complete podcast junkie. Bam – just like that. I haven’t listened to an audiobook in two weeks. I’ll go back to them; I’m just enjoying my new toys for a little while.

I want a way to share the interesting and enlightening podcasts I’ve been listening to, and to keep track of them like I do my books. I thought about including a mention in my Sunday Salon posts, but if there are more than a few I want to talk about, that would make for a very long post.

Hence, a new feature here on the blog:

Podcast of the Week.

(Original title there, eh?)

I’ll share at least one podcast from the past week (or two … whatever) that I particularly enjoyed. It won’t necessary be a podcast that was released (is that the right word?) during that particular week; I have a huge backlist I’m interested in. I’ll try to post these on Fridays or early in the weekend. It will also be a way for me to list all the podcasts I’ve listened to that week.

NYPL Podcast logoSo, without further ado, my selection for Podcast of the Week for 5/24-5/30 comes to us from the New York Public Library. On May 26, The NYPL Podcast featured author A.M. Homes talking with Matthew Weiner, creator, director, executive producer, and writer of “Mad Men.” The result, “Matthew Weiner on Don Draper’s Inner Life,” is a fascinating conversation about the show and much, much more.

Other Podcasts I Listened to This Week:

Books on the Nightstand
BOTNS#333: What the heck is cli-fi? (5/26)  Michael and Ann discussed “cli-fi,” which is short for “climate fiction” about books featuring a dramatic shift in the climate. 

Inside the New York Times Book Review
Shakespeare in Love (5/22)

The New Yorker Fiction:  Joshua Ferris Reads Robert Coover (5/1)
Novelist Joshua Ferris discusses the work of Robert Coover and reads Coover’s short story “Going for a Beer.

The New Yorker Poetry
Ada Limon Reads Jennifer L. Knox (5/20)
Robert Pinsky Reads Elizabeth Bishop (4/16)
I listened to both of these episodes when I was sick this week and hardly able to get out of bed. Turns out, listening to poetry when you’re sick is a rather comforting thing indeed. All of these poems presented on these two podcasts are FANTASTIC (“Pimp My Ride” by Jennifer L. Knox; “State Bird” by Ada Limon; “At the Fishhouses” by Elizabeth Bishop and “Shirt” by Robert Pinsky). Now, I want to read more by all of these poets. 

The Sporkful
You Suck at Drinking: A Guide to Buzz Management (5/25)
These guys (and Matthew Latkiewicz, author of  You Suck at Drinking) made me laugh with their strategies on ways to drink more without getting a quick buzz. Even funnier were their guidelines for how many drinks (and what kind) to have during certain events, like a loud birthday party for a child. 

A few more listens from last week:

Books on the Nightstand: BOTNS#332: Summer Reading Plans, Featuring the Return of BOTNS Bingo (5/19)
The BOTNS summer reading bingo sounds like fun, so I went ahead and downloaded my card. I have a great mix of categories that are challenging for me and ones that would have likely been among my summer reading anyway.

Death, Sex, and Money: Brooklyn Left Me Broke, But I Came Back (5/6)

Dear Sugar Radio: Episode 11: The Land of the In-Law (5/18)

Slate Magazine Daily Podcast: Ask a Teacher, Episode 5: Tough Questions (5/19)

LA Review of Books (LARB) Radio Hour: McSweeney’s Crowdfunding and Tommywood (and Meghan Daum recommending Bernard Cooper’s “My Avant-Garde Education” (5/21)

The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor – May Opens Wide, by Marge Piercy (5/22)
This show – along with Merriam-Webster’s word of the day – has become a fantastic way to start my day.

Adrian Cooke – Your Daily 10 Minute Meditation, Day 5: Relax (5/22)
I need to start building meditation into my routine. I love the idea of a daily 10 minute meditation podcast. I was really tense and stressed out last week over being sick and everything I wanted to be doing and couldn’t. This helped.

The New Yorker Out Loud: What Should a Museum Look Like? (5/18)
This was relevant to me because it relates to some current projects I have going on at work.

The Light Bulb: Roger Is Always Fine (5/18)
Another recap and analysis of “Mad Men” and how no matter what, Roger will always, always be fine.

If there’s any theme from this week’s listens, it’s that I clearly cannot get enough of that show.

Or podcasts.

Do you listen to podcasts? Tell me some of your favorites so I can add to my ever-growing list. 

 

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