I wanted to include Things I’ve Learned From Women Who’ve Dumped Meedited by Ben Karlin in my Philadelphia Inquirer article about dating books for guys, but it didn’t quite fit. It’s not offering advice per say. It’s more comradery at being kicked by cupid.
It’s an anthology, so 46 different voices come to the table to give their take this thing we call love. Most of these are essays about relationships that went wrong (though must guys writing that they did eventually get married). A few comics are sprinkled in — not as on comedians (though there are a few of those — Stephen Colbert and Will Forte contributed essays) but as in drawn pictures of heartbreak. Marcellus Hall‘s “Lessons from a Cyclical Heart” is brilliant if not a reminder that no matter how well things are going, they could always come to an end.
It’s a fun book to read, but not all the essays are winners. I wasn’t too enthralled with Colbert’s entry (though, hell, if he said he’d like to contribute something to my book, I’d jump at the chance, and Karlin was an executive producer at the Daily Show, so it makes sense), and some essays were little more than navel gazing.
But the essays are short, and you can skip if one’s jiving with you. My favorite piece was by Damian Kulash, Jr. of OK Go about adopting a dog with his then-girlfriend and how they probably stayed together too long because of the dog. My favorite line: “We were becoming adults, we told ourselves. So what if sex was less frequent than trips to the Home Depot? Adults have significant hardware needs.” Todd Hanson‘s “Things More Majestic and Terrible Than You Could Ever Imagine” is great, too — he’s funny without looking like he’s trying too hard to be funny (working at The Onion probably helps sharpen your comedy writing skills). A sample: “This feels great — until they dump you on a whim again. But hey — then they can take you back on yet another whim! This cycle can continue for not one, not two, but five years…until you have finally established a love/hate codependency not dissimilar from the Miami economy’s relationship with cocaine.”
I also love that Karlin’s mom writes the Foreword. Because who doesn’t see you through the rosiest of glasses but your mom?
A few more random thoughts, then I’m off to figure out where me and the guy should have dinner tonight without being crushed by Valentine’s Day revelers:
1. As I read/looked at Marcellus Hall’s “Lessons from a Cyclical Heart,” I thought, Wow that must have taken a long time to draw. Then I said, Wait a minute. I spent hours on essays to make every single word perfect…to make it look effortless.
2. I’m taking an essay class right now, so I read a lot of these essays like a writer. Well, I always read like a writer, but this timeI read with a more critical eye since I’m writing in the exact same format. Writing about relationships is heady stuff. It’s not easy living through relationships or breakups, but writing about them…yeesh. I’ve spent two hours of the last three days in tears at my laptop. Not because I’m living through a break up, but because I was writing about some really bad stuff, and in doing so, brought back all that crap up I’d tried to tamp down. Not writing about it would seem an easy solution, but you know what? I feel better. I’ve taken it out of my head and put it on paper where I can move things around, highlight this detail or that, and make it something that someone else might find interesting. It’s like exorcising a demon.
3. If that ever gets published, the shit is going to hit the fan.
Great way to kick of my Valentine’s Day dinner search, huh? Well, OK, I shouldn’t complain. I started this blog because of a breakup, and I now have someone who I assumed I’d be going out with on Valentine’s Day. Isn’t that nice? A year ago, I didn’t know if I’d get back to this point, but I did (and, yes, book 2 of 52 helped). And after reading Things I’ve Learned From Women Who’ve Dumped Me, I know that if this one tanks, too, there’s still going to be hope down the line.
In any case, I’ll leave you with this then since I mentioned OK Go. You’ve probably seen the video, but it’s a fun watch (and from a great album).
I’ll throw this one in, too, because, this is the first OK Go clip I saw.
I read in an event listing that there’s a reading coming up near me, and it piqued my interest in the book, but alas I can’t attend. After reading your review, now I definitely need to read the book, though I’m disappointed that you felt Colbert’s essay fell short. Good luck with your essay! Even though it’s hard to write about, those things often make very moving writing because the emotions are so genuine.